Data | A record number of mail votes may get rejected in U.S. presidential polls 2020

People attend a March to the Polls rally in Columbus Circle during early voting for the U.S. Presidential election in New York City.   | Photo Credit: AFP

More than 70 million American citizens have already cast their ballot as “early voters” in the 2020 U.S. presidential polls with less than a week left for election day.

A significant share of early votes was cast through mail, a method which results in significantly more ballot rejections than the traditional in-person voting. Close to 2% of mail votes were rejected in this year’s primary elections. If a similar share of mail votes gets rejected in the 2020 presidential polls, about a million votes may go uncounted, given the increased early voting due to the pandemic.

Also, this may disproportionately affect the Democrats more than the Republicans as data show that a significantly higher number of voters affiliated to the Democratic Party request postal ballots compared to the Republican Party.

Studies also show that ballots of Black and younger voters, who form an important part of the Democratic support base, have a higher probability of getting rejected than other types.

Early bird

Around 71.1 million Americans voted early this year, surpassing the previous record of 57.5 million set in 2016. More than 50% of 2016’s total votes have already been cast as early votes this year, of which 34.4% were sent through mail.


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Rejected ratio

Close to 1% and 2.1% of mail votes were rejected in the 2016 election and 2020 presidential primaries, respectively. If a similar or a slightly higher % of mail votes get rejected in the 2020 polls, 0.5 to 1.5 million votes may go uncounted.


Mostly Democrats

Some U.S. States maintain party affiliation data of voters who request for postal ballot. In 2020, close to 25 million (mn) such voters were affiliated with the Democratic Party, compared to the 14.7 million affiliated with the Republican Party.


Calculating impact

The uncounted votes aren’t insignificant as the small margins of victory for Donald Trump in 2016 in swing States show.


Source: electproject.github, New York Times, National Public Radio,,

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 12:46:16 AM |

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