New paper, “Voting by Mail in a VENMO World: Assessing Rejected Absentee Ballots in Georgia,” by Enrijeta Shino (Assistant Professor, University of North Florida (UF PhD, 2019), Mara Suttmann-Lea (Assistant Professor, Connecticut College), and Daniel A. Smith (Professor, University of Florida), available here.
Due to the COVID-19 threat to in-person voting in the November 2020 election, state and local election officials have turned to mail voting as a potential solution. Vote-by-mail (VBM) may not be a panacea, however. Even though state election codes lay out guidelines and uniform requirements for confirming the eligibility of voters casting mail ballots, some voters may lack information on how to correctly fill out or return a VBM envelope, leaving local election officials considerable discretion when validating mail ballots. This is particularly concerning if underrepresented subgroups of the electorate—racial and ethnic minorities, young voters, female, and those newly registered—are disproportionately more likely to have their identifying information on the back of a VBM ballot return envelope challenged. Merging Georgia’s statewide voter files with county-level U.S Census Bureau data, we analyze VBM ballot rejection rates in the state’s 2018 General Election. Using Heckman sample selection models, we find that newly registered, young, female, and minority voters have rejection rates that are higher compared to their counterparts, varying from 4 to 7 percentage points.