7 On Your Side Investigates: Reasons ballots are rejected in New York City area

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Voting by mail sounds easy. Open your mail in ballot, fill in the dots, sign and date it. and send it back.

But the process has been anything but easy for many voters in New York.

A data analysis by 7 On Your Side Investigates shows more ballots have been rejected in the New York City area than any Democrat controlled area in the entire country.

In 2018, 25% of absentee ballots were rejected.

That means at least one in four were thrown out, up drastically compared to the last presidential election in 2016, when 12% of ballots were rejected.

The results are alarming, especially considering more people are expected to vote by mail than ever before in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Perry Grossman, who heads up the Voting Rights Project with the New York Civil Liberties Union, says New York has a long history of voting in person, not by mail.

He believes first time voters not following instructions are a big reason behind the rejection rate.

"It has a lot to do with first time voters," he said. "I think it has a lot to do with an antiquated election system we have here in New York, and I don't think there's anything nefarious going on."

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One of the biggest reasons thousands of ballots have been rejected in New York is because people don't sign and date the ballot envelope before putting it in the mail.

Hundreds of local ballots have also been rejected due to the envelopes not being sealed properly.

The ACLU says some have even been rejected due to voters using tape to seal the envelope.

This year, new checks and balances have been put into place.

"This has been course corrected," said Sarah Goff, of Common Cause New York.

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For the first time, New York voters have to be notified if their ballot has been rejected to give them the opportunity to fix the issue.

"It will only serve to ensure every vote is counted and will hopefully help bring those numbers down," Goff said.

Grossman is optimistic.

"Hopefully, we'll see those rejection rates come down," he said. "And in the meantime, I really just hope voters read those directions carefully and whenever possible, vote in person."

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