Benson: 15,302 absentee ballots were rejected

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News
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Lansing — Michigan election clerks weeded out more than 15,000 absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election because they failed to meet legal qualifications, according to data released Wednesday by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office.

The rejection rate of 0.46% of 3.3 million absentee ballots cast in the general election was lower than the primary election rejection rate of 0.67% of the 1.6 million absentee ballots cast in Michigan's Aug. 4 election, according to the Secretary of State office's data.

 The rejections demonstrated "the integrity of Michigan's election," according to a statement by Benson's staff.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

Of the 15,302 rejections in the Nov. 3 election, 4,090 were because officials determined a voter moved to another jurisdiction before Election Day, and 3,469 were because officials found a voter cast a ballot while alive but then died before the election.

Michigan experienced a jump in the number of absentee ballots rejected because of a voter's death from the 1,782 absentee ballots turned away due to deaths in the November 2016 election, but a record 3.3 million residents voted by absentee ballot this year.

In addition, 3,328 ballots, or 22%, of the rejected ballots in the Nov. 3 election were turned away because they arrived after polls closed at 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. It was a huge improvement from the Aug. 4 primary election, when about 60% or more than 6,400 of the 10,600 rejected absentee ballots were turned in too late.

The new rejection figures arrived Wednesday as supporters of President Donald Trump continue to push unproven claims of election fraud into the spotlight in Michigan.

"I am extremely proud of the 1,600 clerks across the state who embraced the record-setting turnout including more than double the number of absentee ballots ever cast in a Michigan election and vigilantly ensured that all valid ballots were counted," said Benson, a Detroit Democrat, referring to the 5.5 million voters overall who cast ballots.

On Tuesday, the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee held a more than six-hour hearing on the counting of absentee ballots in Detroit. On Wednesday night, Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, appeared before the House Oversight Committee.

Giuliani and other Trump supporters have claimed there was enough election fraud in Michigan to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's win. But they have not provided proof to back up their assertions, many of which have been knocked down by the courts and election officials.

Biden, a Democrat, defeated Trump, a Republican, by 154,000 votes in Michigan, 14 times Trump's margin of victory here four years earlier. Bipartisan boards of county canvassers in all 83 counties and the Board of State Canvassers have already certified Michigan's results.

Benson's office highlighted the rate of absentee ballot rejectionsfor signature issues fell from 0.14% in the August primary to 0.1% in the November general election.

“It is also gratifying that our voter education efforts, alongside those of countless other nonpartisan organizations, in addition to the installation of secure ballot drop boxes across the state, combined to dramatically reduce the rate of voter disenfranchisement due to late submission and signature errors," Benson said.

According to her office, 1,400 ballots were rejected because signatures didn't match, and 1,852 were rejected for not having a signature.

In Michigan's August primary election, 2,225 of Michigan's 10,600 rejected absentee ballots were discarded because there was no signature on the envelope; 1,111 were rejected because the voter moved; and 846 were not accepted because the voter was dead, according to data from Benson's office.

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