Top Reasons Ballots Get Rejected

Ballots get rejected?

To ensure the anonymity and security of mail-in ballots, voters must complete their ballots and follow the instructions correctly. Election security means that ballots will be rejected. We have data from the last 11 statewide elections from 2015-2020 and this data allows voters to learn and avoid costly mistakes.

The top reasons for ballot rejection 2020 Primary Election.

The “Other” category is a catch-all and an unknown. We are working with county Boards of Elections to get clarity and more details.

To see top rejected reasons in your county:

CountRejected Reason
9645Ballot Received After Polls Closed
6093Certificate Missing
4189Signature Does Not Match
3732Ballot Not Enclosed
1949Certificate Not Signed
308Party Privilege after the Primary Election
278Voter Registration ID Missing
183Primary-Voted Both Parties
132Voted in Wrong Party
100Incomplete Bearer Portion
100Moved Out of County
64Bearer Exceeded Limit
31Power of Attorney
13Incomplete Assistor Portion
8Bearer Book Not Signed In
2One Envelope Unsealed
1Both Envelopes Unsealed
1Candidate Provided Assistance

Higher rejection rate, but still a small percentage.

The Coronavirus pandemic and Governor Murphy’s Executive Order that required County Clerks to mail Vote By Mail ballots, or mail-in ballots, to all active registered voters, resulted in an astounding percentage of votes cast by paper ballot for the July 7th Primary Election. Nearly 90% of all votes cast were done by mail-in ballot. For voters who were voting using this method for the first time meant that many costly mistakes were made by voters driving the rejection rate much higher than we have experienced historically.

All Statewide Elections 2015-2019

Data from all Primary and General elections, years 2015-2019 shows that the top 8 reasons that ballots were rejected out of the total ballots cast was less than 0.01% and 3.25% of total mail-in ballots. The top rejected reasons were:

  1. Certificate Not Signed (CNS)
  2. Ballots received After Polls closed (BAP)
  3. Certificate Missing (CMS)
  4. Signature Does Not Match (SNM)
  5. Other (O)
  6. Incomplete Bearer Portion (IBP)
  7. Ballot Not Enclosed (BNE)
  8. Primary – Voted both Parties (PVP)
Data from NJ Division of Elections. Total for 2019 General Election = 8459. Total for 2015-2019 all Primary and General Elections = 52,011

What can voters do to prevent their ballot from being rejected?

We, ATNJ Education Fund, worked hard to write (and redraft as needed) the history-breaking Ballot Cure Act, the Ballot Drop Boxes Act, and the “VBM Education Bill.” These bills were signed into law on August in combination work to reduce voter disenfranchisement.

  • The Ballot Cure Act: requires the county Board of Elections to notify the voters of their temporary rejection within 24 hours and allows the voters up to 48 hours before the election is certified to provide a fix – or cure – to the mail-in ballot.
  • The Ballot Drop Boxes Act – requires a minimum of 10 secure ballot drop boxes per county allowing voters more accessibility to drop their ballots timely, avoiding the number reason for ballot rejection; codifies the entirety of Executive Order 177 including the mailing of VBM ballots to all active registered voters.
  • The “VBM Education Bill” – requires the Secretary of State to provide voter education on Vote By Mail, increases the number of Messengers and Bearers from 3 to 5 if family and residing in the same household, and removes the requirement of having a postmark on the mail-in ballot if received within 48 hours of polls closed. These will work to reduce rejections due to receiving after polls closed.

For the November Election, voters need to pay close attention to 2 CRITICAL THINGS:

  1. The Election Date of November 3rd
  2. The Certificate of Mail-in Voter

1. The Election Date of November 3rd!

An astounding number of ballots were rejected due to ballots received after election day. 🤷 Voters have several weeks to study their ballot, vote, and to drop off or mail in plenty of time. DO NOT WAIT. To ensure it gets postmarked or received by the Board of Elections on time, here are the tips:

  1. If you want to mail it, get it in early! Check out the Voting Plan here.
    • No postmark is needed if the Board of Elections receives it by November 5, 2020.
    • It must be postmarked by November 3, 2020 if the Board of Elections receives it by November 10, 8pm.
  3. You can drop in off at a secure ballot drop box nearest you. The Ballot Drop Boxes Act specifies that each county shall have at least 10 boxes per county. Check your county board of elections website for up-to-date announcements regarding their location. We update our locator as soon as the Division of Elections updates theirs.
  4. Deliver it yourself (or your bearer can) at your County Board of Elections.
  5. Deliver it yourself at your nearest polling center on November 3rd.

2. Certificate of Mail-in Voter

Voters need to fill this out, sign it, and to NOT TEAR OFF the certificate.

Q: What are the security measures here and why does it stay still attached after the voter completes it?

A: The Certificate contains the voter’s information, the voter’s signature that is matched against their signature on file, and information if they received assistance, the lower “Assister’s Portion”. Once the Board of Elections receives this inner envelope and verifies those three things, they then tear if off and separate it from the envelope, keeping the ballot inside a secret. The Certificate must NOT be removed by the voter because the ballot will not count if it is missing.

  • You MUST fill it out complete and SIGN it using your “official” signature, not your grocery store receipt relaxed signature!
  • DO NOT detach it. DO NOT tear it off. It has to stay attached as-is.

What about signature mismatch?

With the passing of the Ballot Cure Act that we wrote and got passed and into law, voters will be able to provide a cure in case there is a signature mismatch. However, voters can avoid this by making sure they update their signature if it’s been a long time since they’ve registered to vote. The signature will be compared to the Voter Registration signature that is digitized in the State Voter Registration system. If you’ve changed your name due to marriage, divorce, or go by a different name like a nickname, be sure to update using the Voter Registration Application shown below.

This form is a sample of updating your signature, affiliating yourself to a party, and signing up to vote by mail all on 1 form!

Incomplete Bearer Portion

The law allow voters to designate a Bearer, someone to take your ballot and deliver it to the Board of Elections. However, the Bearer portion must be filled out by the Bearer. The Bearer portion appears on the outer return envelope. Voters must ensure that the Bearer they use is not transporting more than 3 ballots per each election. *If you are NOT using a Bearer to transport/deliver your ballot, DO NOT fill this out. Only fill out this portion if you designate someone to transport this ballot for you.

Ballot Not Enclosed???

In the last election, the 2020 Primary Election, 3732 voters statewide sent in empty envelopes. In the 2019 General Election, there were 349 New Jersey voters forgot to include their ballot in the envelope. 😕 This happens in every election! This is clearly another mistake that voters make. PLEASE be sure you have all the pieces you need for your vote to count: your ballot; your inner envelope sealed with the Certificate filled out, signed, and attached; and your outer envelope sealed and Bearer portion filled out if you use one. If the outer envelope requires your return address, fill that out and anything else the instructions tell you to do!

What are the other reasons for ballot rejection?

Below are the other reasons possbile for a voter’s ballot to be rejected listed alphabetically by code followed by the description. The notes appearing after the dash is further clarification that we provided.

  • BEL Bearer Exceeded Limit – No person can serve as a bearer for more than 3 qualified voters per election.
  • BEU Both Envelopes Unsealed – Remember to seal both or it is considered tampered with
  • BNE Ballot Not Enclosed
  • BNS Bearer Book Not Signed In – All bearers must present an ID and sign in a book upon drop-off.
  • CPS Candidate Provided Assistance – Candidates are not allowed to provide assistance to any qualified voters.
  • IAP Incomplete Assistor Portion – Voters are allowed to have a family member or other person to assist them but they must fill this portion on the envelope completely.
  • IBP Incomplete Bearer Portion – Voters are permitted to have a bearer – anyone they designate – to take their sealed ballots to a designated staffed ballot drop but the voter must fill out this portion on the envelope completely.
  • MEL Mail Bearer Exceeded Limit
  • MOC Moved Out Of County
  • OEU One Envelope Unsealed – Both outer and inner envelopes must arrived sealed to be counted.
  • POA Power of Attorney
  • PPP Party Privilege after the Primary Election
  • PVP Primary-Voted Both Parties – This is spoiled ballot in the Primary as Unaffiliated voters can only return one party’s ballot.
  • VIM Voter Reg. ID Missing
  • VWP Voted in Wrong Party

👇👇👇 If you found this page to be helpful, please donate and SHARE it widely. Help educate voters!

Uyen “Winn” Khuong, Executive Director, ATNJ Education Fund