Beyond Georgia: A Warning for November as States Scramble to Expand Vote-by-Mail

In Maryland, which chose to mail ballots to all registered voters, outdated registration lists left many ballots returned as undeliverable because voters had moved. Baltimore had the highest return rate — 1 in 10 ballots, or about 20,000 total.

Few cities faced more issues with voting by mail than Baltimore. Voters across the city complained of a lack of information on changes to the election process, and they were among the last in the state to receive their ballots because of a vendor error. A ballot alignment error in a City Council district made the ballots uncountable by the scanner machines.

And for reasons as yet unexplained, some voters who had ballots returned by the Post Office as undeliverable were recorded in polls books as having voted and returned a complete ballot.

“If we have to conduct our elections by mail again there are a lot of glitches that clearly need to be addressed, and a lot more investment needs to be made in voter education,” said Joanne Antoine, the executive director of Common Cause Maryland.

In Washington, D.C., officials were similarly overwhelmed by the surge in voting, after receiving some 91,000 requests for absentee ballots, 15 times the normal volume. Many voters never received their ballots, and those who went to the few polling places that were open on Election Day — 20, compared with the usual 143 — waited as long as four hours to cast their ballots.

The city Board of Elections decided the day before the election to allow voters who had not gotten their ballots to vote via email, but it is not known how many took advantage of the offer. A spokeswoman for the city Board of Elections, Rachel Coll, declined to comment on the problems, saying the board would release a report analyzing the causes of the delays and undelivered ballots.

In Wisconsin, election officials are working to improve the transparency of the vote-by-mail process and help voters unsure of the status of their ballot. During the April 7 election, a flurry of last-second court challenges, including a last-minute ruling by the Supreme Court, most likely disenfranchised many voters in the state. Some mail-in ballots were found undelivered in crates at a Postal Service depot.

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