37 Chicagoans’ mailed-in November ballots were sent on time but arrived too late to be counted

37 Chicagoans’ mailed-in November ballots were sent on time but arrived too late to be counted

It’s unclear whether the 37 Chicagoans whose mailed ballots were sent in on time but somehow didn’t arrive by the deadline of two weeks after the Nov. 3 election could track that via the Chicago Board of Elections tracking system. | Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

They got postmarked or scanned in time to be valid but somehow took over 2 weeks to arrive, the Chicago Board of Elections says. That wouldn’t have made a difference in any race.

It turns out that 37 Chicago voters who asked to vote by mail in November’s election did everything right — got their ballots postmarked or scanned in time to be valid — but their ballots didn’t arrive in time to be counted, the Chicago Board of Elections said Friday.

Though that’s unfortunate for them, the small number of late ballots wouldn’t have made a difference in any race.

This fall, amid the coronavirus pandemic, a record 554,000 Chicago voters had asked for mail ballots, and 1.1 million ballots were cast overall for a healthy 73.3% Chicago voter turnout.

Voters who were aware of problems with the U.S. Postal Service that had been the source of numerous news stories seem to have taken steps to make sure their ballots were cast on time, including dropping them off at secure ballot boxes rather than via the regular mail to a degree that’s never been seen before, according to the elections board.

Mail ballots had postmarked or to have had their “intelligent mail” barcode scanned as having been received by the postal service by Nov. 3 to be valid. Then, those mailed ballots had to arrive within two weeks — by Nov. 17 — to be counted.

In the week before the Nov. 3 general election, Chicago elections officials saw 80% of ballots returned via their 50-plus drop boxes and just 20% via regular mail.

“It was a very successful program,” elections board spokesman James Allen said of voting by mail. “We hoped to hit 82-83%, and we’re way past that.”

It’s not clear whether those 37 voters could see in the online tracking that the elections board used that their ballots went missing.

Another 1,454 ballots from voters citywide weren’t counted because they were postmarked or scanned in after the deadline for the election that saw Joe Biden elected over President Donald Trump and also saw Illinois voters reject a progressive income tax.

Elections officials assured the public they had checks in place to track ballots — but also warned voters not to wait until the last minute.

For the most part, voters heeded those warnings, according to Susan Stokes, founder of the Chicago Center on Democracy at the University of Chicago.

The election “was a real triumph,” Stokes said. “The fact that it was such a historically high turnout in a pandemic is amazing.”

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