Alaska's mail ballot rejection rate has been high, but its impact is severe in a by-mail election
The 4,830 ballots that have been rejected so far in this special election are more than the past six elections combined.
Good evening, Alaska!
In this edition: As the results continue to trickle in on the special election, I’ve continued to be bothered by the high rate of rejections for mailed ballots. While it looks like it’ll be a while before we get a good look at just what happened, I took a look at the past trends for mail ballots. In this chart-heavy newsletter, we’ll see that Alaska has long had high rates of rejected mail ballots but because most Alaskans were voting with other methods those rates never translated to much more than a drop in the bucket. With Alaska’s first-ever by-mail election, the number of rejected ballots represents a far larger chunk of the bucket and legislators are starting to take notice.
Current mood: 📈
Other note: The Division of Elections is using the 2013 amended proclamation plan for the House districts, which explains why the numbering and legislative district numbers are different than what just came out of redistricting.
Coming next time: One weird trick to cut the rejection rate of mail ballots.
State of the rejected ballots
Since my last write-up and as of hitting send on this newsletter, the Division of Elections has yet to release another round of ballot statistics. With 138,566 ballots returned to the state, 4,830 have been rejected for some reason—including because they lacked a witness signature, identifier, signature or a postmark by election day. The state doesn’t use a signature verification system, so that wouldn’t be the case here (nor would the implementation of Ballot Measure 2’s election reforms be at play). In raw numbers, it’s by far the highest number of rejected ballots in any election covered in the statistics published by the state—which go back to the 2016 primary election—and that makes sense given it’s also the state’s first by-mail election. Just 3,569 mail ballots were rejected over the previous six elections combined, which covers a running total of 201,848 mail ballots.
But there’s also a lot of different ways to judge the rejection rate. In terms of percentages, the rejection rate over those past six elections averages out to 3.64% of all mail ballots being rejected. This year’s election currently stands below that at 3.49%.
As far as this special election is concerned, though, the critical takeaway is the rejection rates varied wildly depending on what part of the state they were coming from. The four rural Alaska districts—spanning from the Bristol Bay/Aleutians district to the North Slope district—all had rejection percentages that crossed the 10% mark with 984 ballots rejected of the 6,793 that have been returned from those communities. The Bethel/Lower Kuskokwim’s House District 38 stands out with a rejection rate of 17.37% or 356 ballots rejected of 2,049 that have been returned. Rates are similarly high throughout Anchorage, too, with the Mountain View House District 19 reporting a 9% rejection rate with 151 ballots rejected out of the 1,676 that have been returned.
While we won’t have a good look at just why these ballots were rejected until after the certification of the vote, what stands out to me is that these districts are all have higher concentrations of non-English speaking voters than compared to the rest of Alaska. Between the increasing use of by-mail voting and the shifting requirements to ensure your votes count (more on that below), I would wonder if the messaging about ballot requirements is breaking through the same way it has in other districts.
A look back at a drop in the bucket
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