As concerns continue to grow over mail-in ballots, a new report from a watchdog organization known as the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) found that almost half of California’s 22.1 million mail-in ballots cast in the 2022 midterm elections were unaccounted for.
While PILF concedes that many of the ballots were likely thrown out or not sent back in, it is impossible to know what exactly was done with them after they were mailed to California residents, leading to 10.9 million of the state’s mail-in-ballots being unaccounted for.
The organization is concerned that some of the ballots were withheld for their intended recipient or mailed to the wrong address, disenfranchising voters.
While California is largely a blue state, there are key Congressional races there that helped decide control of the House of Representatives.
The organization said that California’s mail-in-ballot system should “serve as a warning to state legislators elsewhere.”
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“Mail voting practices have an insurmountable information gap,” the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) said on Monday. “The public cannot know how many ballots were disregarded, delivered to wrong mailboxes, or even withheld from the proper recipient by someone at the same address.”
The watchdog released the two-page report (pdf) detailing what it called “the failures” of California’s first mass-mail balloting election following the passage of Assembly Bill 37 (AB 37), which requires that ballots automatically be mailed to all active registered voters statewide. The bill, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September 2021, makes vote-by-mail ballots, a practice implemented in the 2020 general election in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent for all elections.
California has more registered voters than any other state. Yet its vote-by-mail policies—among the nation’s most expansive—have resulted in large numbers of ballots “disappearing at poll closing time,” PILF’s data show.