When Americans vote by mail in time (the vote did not arrive too late) and their vote is rejected, are they getting a notice that their vote was rejected?

  • 2
    The US has a rather large number of jurisdictions which have different procedures-- can you narrow the question. Most have some way of tracking your absentee ballot to see if it was received. Most have some way of allowing a voter to cure some set of problems with their ballot though whether that involves proactive notifications will depend on the jurisdiction. If a vote gets rejected because it is marked improperly in some way, that will generally be after the link between voter and ballot has been broken so there would be no way to notify the voter. Sep 9, 2020 at 21:28
  • can you focus the Q? Do you mean ALL Americans? Do you mean ALL ballots that are submitted by mail? Do you mean REGARDLESS of when their submitted ballot is received. Have you done anything to research this issue?
    – BobE
    Sep 9, 2020 at 21:30
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    This is going to depend heavily on jurisdiction, given the Constitution gives the states the right to decide how to run their elections. In WA, they do contact you (I was proactively contacted when my signature didn't match a few years back) and they send you a signature card to update the one they have on file. Sep 9, 2020 at 21:41
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    @JoeJobs Also, if they could contact you after looking at your ballot, it would violate ballot secrecy. In those areas where people are contacted, it could only be for cases where the ballot was rejected before opening it, for example if there was a problem with the signature or if the ballot was damaged in shipping
    – divibisan
    Sep 9, 2020 at 22:27
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    @SurpriseDog, that's a useful suggestion. By 'swing states" do you mean where the contest is closest? If so would this be your suggested list: Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska's second congressional district, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin , with Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin constituting the "Big Four" most likely to decide the electoral college?
    – BobE
    Sep 11, 2020 at 4:00

2 Answers 2


Here is no nice & simple universal answer to this Question. Firstly, it is highly dependent on the jurisdiction, as well as the reason for the "rejection". Take a simple example, the voter returns the ballot in time to be counted but does not place the ballot in the security or authentication envelope, nor has a identification on a outer envelope. As a consequence, the election officials have no way of knowing where the ballot came from. Legitimately, they would "reject" or "discard" that ballot. Most assuredly that would occur in every jurisdiction.

In my jurisdiction, a ballot envelope that has an incorrect driver's license and/or 'last 4 digits of social security number' will be contacted (if the contact information is available) and the voter must appear at the Board of Elections office within 4 days of notification to correct the problem. Failure of the voter to correct the identification information would result in the security envelope being placed in the "reject" bin. (the ballot would never have been seen but is presumed to be in the security envelope.)

In my jurisdiction those envelopes (with a presumed ballot inside) are stored for two years before being discarded/destroyed. (That is under normal circumstances, however if there are lawsuits pending, those envelopes will be stored indefinitely).

I've just provided examples of what happens in my jurisdiction, bear in mind that other jurisdictions and voting districts may implement their individual state laws, regulations, and guidance differently. Actual implementation varies among the thousands of jurisdictions.

  • 3
    @Jontia, no not flippant. The 31,000 voting districts is an approximation of the US jurisdictions. Each state has independent (but sometimes overlapping) rules and procedures. Within each state, countie scan have processes and procedures that can be different from ajoining counties. And within each counties the voting districts may have different processes. For example, in some counties in the US, absentee ballots may be processed and counted at the county BOE, but some counties turn over some (but not all) of absentee ballots to the individual precincts to count.
    – BobE
    Sep 10, 2020 at 13:22
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    @Jontia; Recommended reading ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/… for just a view of how and when absentee ballots are "counted". That will give you a view of how each of the states handle. But deeper examination of the state statutes reveals that counties have discretion about how to implement the state's statute.
    – BobE
    Sep 10, 2020 at 13:27
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    Wow. Thanks for the extra info. Some might ask if 31,000 potentially different absentee voting regimes is taking localism a little too far.
    – Jontia
    Sep 10, 2020 at 13:34
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    @Jontia - I don't know if that was intended or not. But the first thing to realize is that each of the individual states are "in charge" of the voting within that state. Using my state as an example, they have guidelines for voting machines, but do not dictate to each of the counties what machines or machine manufacturers they must use. Now, in some urban counties they have to handle 300,000 votes, as compared to some rural counties are handling 2500 votes. Moreover, in many of the rural precincts, each of the voters are known by name by election workers. Voter fraud = extremely difficult.
    – BobE
    Sep 10, 2020 at 17:57
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    @agc - What is unclear to me is your intent in editing my answer, nor what appears to be your criticism of "poor trade". If you can offer an answer that will have uncomplicated but all inclusive answer to the poster's question, you have that privilege. For myself, I don't have the time to research a comprehensive answer that will address all voting jurisdictions for a question that insufficiently focused, nor would I expect the readers to wade through a recitation of all the variations that may exist between voting districts implementation.
    – BobE
    Sep 13, 2020 at 14:16

It will depend on where you are voting, because laws about how elections are run are set at the state level, and, as another answer points out, they are actually carried out at the local level. This means there is no single answer to this question that is true for all Americans.

This guide from Slate lists how to vote and, and how to confirm whether your vote is being counted, in every state. Many publications have compiled similar lists; I've chosen this one because 1) it has a focus on mail in voting and 2) it discusses how to see whether your vote has been counted, which makes it relevant to the question.

For example, the guide says the following for Wisconsin, a state that has been mentioned in the comments as being of particular interest:

If you choose to mail your ballot, you should track its progress online using the system set up by individual municipalities. The Wisconsin Elections Commission will urge clerks to use Intelligent Mail barcodes, allowing voters to track their ballots online. If your clerk does not use IMbs, you should call their office to check on the status of your ballot.

This suggests that in Wisconsin, you will not be actively notified that your ballot has been rejected, but that the information is available if you look for it. The same appears to be true for many other states.

  • Possibly a bit of confusion here, generally speaking, ballot trackers will only reveal if a ballot has been received at the jurisdiction but will not indicate if a ballot (and it's votes) has been counted. Voter errors, such as voting for both competing candidate, will cause that vote to be rejected and therefore not counted. So that vote is not counted despite that the ballot counter indicates the ballot has been received by the jurisdiction.
    – BobE
    Sep 12, 2020 at 16:44

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