Nearly 30,000 ballots mailed to D.C. voters have been returned to the District’s Board of Elections as undeliverable, the News4 I-Team found.
Anticipating high turnout in the general election, the District mailed ballots to each of its roughly 480,000 registered voters to encourage early voting amid the pandemic.
More than 100,000 voters have sent back their ballots to be counted, but the I-Team found 28,000 — 6% — never made it to voters at all.
The head of D.C.’s elections board said he was not surprised by the rate of undeliverable ballots returned by the U.S. Postal Service, citing the transient nature of D.C.’s population.
"We live in a city where people come and go all the time; lots of students with all the universities,” D.C. Board of Elections Chair Michael Bennett told News4. “You're likely to have addresses that aren't still correct or valid.”
Bennett added that ballots are not forwarded to a person’s new address, due to security reasons and because — if a voter moved to a new location in the District — the local races would change.
In August, the D.C. Board of Elections sent a mailer to registered voters, asking them to confirm their address and correct any errors on their registration information on file. The mailer was criticized for a confusing design flaw, however, that erroneously prompted voters to detach and mail back only one half of the mailer, omitting the portion with the voter’s identifying information.
Bennett said elections officials did not try to track down the thousands of voters whose ballots were returned undeliverable, but he noted the board has helped voters who contacted them with concerns their ballot did not arrive.
“As you can imagine, trying to follow up on 28,000 returned ballots is not a reasonable use of time,” he said.
With early voting starting on Oct. 27, Bennett said anyone who hasn’t yet been in contact with the Board of Elections about obtaining a by-mail ballot should plan on voting in person. D.C. voters can cast ballots at any location.
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Katie Leslie, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.