The Daily Brew: Checking-in on ballot rejection rates from 2020

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Tuesday, April 20, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Absentee/mail-in ballot rejection rates in the 2016 and 2020 general elections
  2. New Mexico becomes the third state to approve recreational marijuana legalization this year
  3. Rep. Steve Stivers (R) to resign in May 

Absentee/mail-in ballot rejection rates in the 2016 and 2020 general elections

Mail-in voting increased in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, with an estimated 65.6 million absentee/mail-in ballots cast in the 2020 general election versus 33.4 million in 2016. In 2020, absentee/mail-in ballots were 41.1% of all ballots cast in November. In 2016, they were 23.8%.

Each state publishes data on the overall rejection rate of these ballots. The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) publishes a comprehensive report on such data (among other things in their typically 225+ page report) for all 50 states. We used data from the EAC’s 2016 Election Administration Voting Survey in the following analysis of rejection rates. The EAC’s 2020 survey is tentatively scheduled to be released on June 30. 

While we eagerly await the official report, we’ve been compiling information on 2020 rejection rates from news sources, publicly available election statistics, and direct outreach to state election officials. We’ll provide updates to our rejection rate data as information becomes available. So far, we have data for 31 of the 50 states.

  • Ballotpedia’s analysis of 2020 election data shows that at least 20 states rejected a smaller percentage of absentee/mail-in ballots during the 2020 general election than they did in 2016
  • At least seven states rejected a greater percentage, and 
  • Four states’ rejection rates remained the same. 

Nineteen states have not yet released the data necessary for making a comparison—those states aren’t included in this analysis.

The number of absentee/mail-in ballots cast in the 31 states for which data is available increased 113% from 24.4 million in 2016 to 51.8 million in 2020. The number of rejected ballots also increased from 222,096 in 2016 to 368,949 in 2020—a 66% increase. 

While the number of absentee/mail-in ballots cast and rejected were both higher in 2020 than in 2016, the rejection rate across these 31 states decreased by 0.2 percentage points from 0.9% in 2016 to 0.7% in 2020.

Nationwide, the rejection rate for the 33.4 million absentee/mail-in ballots cast in 2016 was 1.0%. 

Click the link below to learn more about how we gathered this preliminary data.

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New Mexico becomes the third state to approve recreational marijuana legalization this year

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed House Bill 2 (HB2) on April 12, which legalized recreational marijuana. This made New Mexico the third state to enact recreational marijuana legalization in the last month. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a marijuana legalization bill on March 31. On April 7, the Virginia General Assembly approved Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) amended legalization proposal, moving up the effective date from 2024 to July 1 of this year.

New Mexico’s law allows the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, 16 grams of concentrated marijuana, and 800 milligrams of edible cannabis. It allows each person to grow up to six mature and six immature marijuana plants, with a limit of 12 mature plants per household. Local governments will be allowed to pass laws regulating certain commercial activity and density. 

New Mexico was the fifth state to approve legalized recreational marijuana through legislative action rather than a voter-approved ballot measure. Including New Mexico, 17 states and D.C. have enacted marijuana legalization. 

Of the 17 states where recreational marijuana is legal, 12 have Democratic governors and five (Alaska, Arizona, Massachusetts, Montana, and Vermont) have Republican governors.

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Rep. Steve Stivers (R) to resign in May

U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) announced on Monday he will resign from the House on May 16 to become president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Stivers represents Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.

Stivers has served in the U.S House since 2011. He most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Democrat Joel Newby 63% to 37%.

Gov. Mike DeWine (R) will set a special election date to fill the vacancy. Five special elections have been scheduled during the 117th Congress so far, including a special to fill a vacancy in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District. The 11th District special primary is on Aug. 3 and the general election will be held on Nov. 2. A date for Florida’s 20th Congressional District special election has not yet been set.

Five representatives have left office early so far. Along with Marcia Fudge of Ohio’s 11th District, two other Democrats resigned to serve in President Joe Biden’s administration. Reps. Ronald Wright (R) and Alcee Hastings (D) died in office. In addition, Luke Letlow (R) died after winning the November election but before taking office, creating a vacancy in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District. 

Eight special House elections occurred for the 116th Congress. Fourteen took place for the 115th Congress. Seven special House elections were held during the 114th Congress.

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