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Rejection of Mail-In Ballots in Some States Sparks Growing Concern

Voters who are notified of a problem can request a new ballot or vote in person, but the law does not provide time after the election to resolve the problems. That potentially affects voters who drop off their ballots on or near Election Day.

By Associated Press

Drawing on her years of military experience, Maureen Heard was careful to follow all the rules when she filled out an absentee ballot for the 2016 election.

She read the instructions thoroughly, signed where she was supposed to, put the ballot in its envelope and dropped it off at her county elections office in New Hampshire. She then left town to return to a temporary federal work assignment in Washington, D.C.

"I have learned over the years, many years in the military of filling out forms, how to fill out forms — and I was very intimidated by the process," said Heard, who served in the Air Force and as a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard. "I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I have to make sure I get it absolutely right.' And then it didn't count."

Heard, 57, discovered last year that she was among roughly 319,000 voters across the country whose absentee ballots were rejected during the last presidential election. The reasons varied, ranging from missing deadlines to failing to sign their ballot.

Heard's ballot was tossed out because the signature did not match the one on file at her local election office.

More people than ever are returning their ballots by mail or dropping them off at a local election location rather than voting in a booth on Election Day. Those developments make it easier to cast ballots and are designed to boost turnout.

The trend also is raising concerns about whether voters can be assured their ballots will count or be notified in time if there is a problem. Voting rights activists want to ensure that voters are given a reasonable chance to fix any problems.

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