Lost in the Mail – How the United States will discard 5 Million Ballots in 2020’s General Election

This is a 3 Part Series I’m working on regarding the problems with Vote-By-Mail that we face as a nation coming up on tomorrow and likely all week. This is the draft version and my drafts are unedited…. So feel free to comment as you see fit. I felt like providing the draft version Monday, before the election starts. I usually get a big spike in readership when mail voting goes terribly wrong…

Gentry Lange



Could We see 5 Million Votes in the trash this Tuesday?


I’ve been writing about the problems with Vote-By-Mail (VBM) for about 16 years, online here at novbm.com, The No Vote By Mail Project.  It’s a blog I run, mostly as a hobby, but also because my friend, a famous voting activist in the early 2000s, Andy Stephenson’s last vote before he died was thrown out by Vote-By-Mail. That incident infamously made the Seattle Times, at the time. So I continue to track the problems, year in, and year out and occasionally I field questions from journalists who find my website in the online ether.


Earlier this year, I ran for Secretary of State, in Washington (A VBM State), and lost, and lost badly, on this same issue. In fact, perhaps poetically, I got about the same amount of votes that were thrown out by the vote-by-mail system, or roughly 2%.

2% may not seem like alot, however in the grand scheme of voting it adds up. Just imagine if every time you went to the bank they claimed 2% of your money was bad, lost, your signature didn’t match on the checks you deposited. Every 2000 paycheck is 40 bucks lighter. Not much, but over the course of the year that’s a thousand bucks of your money the bank has “lost.”

And in an election where 2.5 million voters cast ballots in just one state, our vote-by-mail system threw out a whopping 40,299 ballots in the primaries alone. It gets worse. In the Presidential primary of 2020, Washington State’s voting system officially rejected almost 96,000 ballots. 

Just imagine if the bank misplaced about 100 thousand dollars every time your company deposited 2.5 million bucks, do you think anyone would notice? But that’s the reality in Washington, a state that has voted mostly by mail for almost 20 years. 1.7 to 2% is typically discarded for various reasons in almost every vote by mail election. Furthermore, Washington State is typically pointed to as the state that conducts vote-by-mail elections well.

In just this one state, the mail system disenfranchised almost 100 thousand voters, officially. Around the Country, that number was over 550k during the Presidential Primaries, as reported by Pam Fessler over at NPR. California also tossed out over 105k votes all by themselves, another predominantly VBM state.


This year, because of Covid-19, the Democrats in their wisdom decided to push Vote-By-Mail all over the country. In fact, Michelle Obama and Tom Hanks teamed up and became the face of the marketing push to vote-by-mail during a pandemic. And it worked, the polls show that Democrats are voting by mail in far greater percentages than Republicans.  If each state throws out 100k ballots, like Washington or California, that’s a whopping 5 million votes that have all largely self-selected as predominantly Democratic voters. That could definitely be a problem for Democrats starting Tuesday.

5 Million might be high, but we will see, as different states have different rules. They’ve already set aside over 11,000 here in my home King County, where I write this blog from, and that’s even before Tuesday has arrived… in just one county, as of last week.


During the pandemic, and due to the nature of absentee ballots and State-By-State rules, I suspect easily more than 3 Million Votes will be lost in the mail this year nationally.  It’s really not hard to get there. It’s a relatively safe bet that at least 3 million votes get tossed in the trash, by the courts, by the rules, and by the postal machine itself. And I’m not talking about individual voter fraud here, what I am talking about is both errors in the system, as a product of that system, as well as wholesale electioneering efforts through the courts and the control of the postal system by the Trump Administration.

There’s a bit of a reality we must now face coming next Tuesday. Republicans are going to go to the polls. And Democrats should probably rally, and go as well. Every healthy absentee voter that’s already voted should go drive their aunt or brother, or friend to the polls. Give ‘em that N95 mask you’ve been saving, bring some hand sanitizer, or even stand in line for them. Why? Because your mail ballot might be tossed in the trash for various reasons, or by various laws, depending on the state in which you live. So make sure someone that would not have otherwise voted, votes, because you got them to vote. That’s just my 2 Cents though… I’m not actually a Democrat.

Anyway, I do take this all a bit personally, my vote was thrown out, here in Washington in 2008. I voted on time, and my vote in the Presidential Primaries was tossed in the trash, by the system that is…. Vote-by-Mail.

Soon your vote might be invalidated as well.


How to Get to 5 Million Trashed Ballots –  Part 2  _________________________________________________________

State by State,
Mail Ballots are treated very differently depending on the state you vote in.


It turns out that each state is different when it comes to voting AND absentee or mail voting. For example, in Wisconsin your best bet if you haven’t voted yet, is to drop off your ballot at a poll site or vote in person. That is if you can drop it off at a poll site on Tuesday. Because the laws vary in each state. In Wisconsin your ballot must be received by election day. So mailing it on Tuesday  is just not an option anymore… that is, if you want your vote to count. 

In Pennsylvania, you currently have 3 days after the election for ballots to arrive after Tuesday. So, apparently Friday. But a postmark on Tuesday doesn’t count, it must be received by Friday. And that could change with the next Supreme Court ruling on the matter. So mailing your mail ballot is no longer an option in Pennsylvania either. 

And what if you voted a week ago, but your ballot arrives next Saturday. Nope, your mail ballot won’t count in most states. But it will count in Utah, Washington, California, and Illinois. But apparently not Colorado and Oregon. Two all mail voting states that I’m surprised to learn have a “received by” election day cut-off according to Buzzfeed. 


So even now, don’t mail it in… anywhere you live. Because the Republicans have rat-fucked the post office, and now it’s running 10 days or more to mail a letter in some places, mostly cities and Democratic strongholds. However, in States like Washington, you only need to have it postmarked by election day and if it is received by the cut-off, November 23rd, your vote will be counted. After the 23rd, those ballots don’t count. Regardless of the postmark.


So even in Washington State, basically every State,  I’d advise you to drop it off at a poll site. Because I’ve personally received important mail 18 months late. So regardless of when you mail a ballot, a certain percentage will get lost in the mail, really no matter when you mail your ballot. I’ve mailed my ballot in Washington State 4 days ahead of the election, and gotten the letter saying it wasn’t even post-marked in time. Sorry, doesn’t count, the Kitsap County’s very nicely worded letter to me stated. I placed my ballot in an official post office mail box at the time. Weird, I know.

In fact, ballots somewhat routinely show up from previous elections in all mail voting systems. Think about that for a bit while the elections are counted and argued over this week. 

To be clear here, you should not mail your absentee ballot. You should either vote in person Tuesday, or drop off your ballot Tuesday at an official poll site. Why? Well in addition to everything else going on there’s a bunch of fake drop boxes being set-up around the country by Republicans. And you can bet there will be a lot of so-called Granny Farming going on… the practice of collecting ballots from unsuspecting old folks, and then tossing them in the river, the ocean, or burning them in the backyard. 

There’s always a few stories like this in an election with lots of postal voting…


Let’s repeat what I’ve said forever, do not mail your ballot. Drop your ballot at a polling site. Or vote in person. Period. Full stop. 

But what about your state, and what if you already mailed your ballot? Well here’s a moderately helpful list, but do check with your State’s Secretary of State’s official website for more info, rather than this list: 


What that list does show is that each state has different rules. Therefore will see each state disqualify ballots based on totally different laws and reasons reasons. My prediction? The states where it matters most will see the most litigation and the most ballots thrown in the trash. There’s 12 States in total to watch: 

1. Texas 

2. Ohio 

3. Iowa 

4. Nebraska’s Second District 

5. Georgia 

6. North Carolina 

7. Florida 

8. Pennsylvania 

9. Wisconsin 

10. Nevada 

11. Minnesota 

12. Michigan 

Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Nevada all look like great bets for both litigation and lots of ballots thrown out. 

Anyway, let’s get back to that 5 Million number I originally brought up. That number is just from my simple math and simple assumptions. California and Washington State both admit to around 100k rejected ballots. These two states are very different in population sizes. So for a rough estimate you can get to 5 Million by just going with 100k per state and multiplying by 50. 

But if you look at what the Postmaster General Louis Dejoy did by dismantling key sorting machines in highly targeted areas, the likelihood of millions and millions of delayed ballots is going to be high.


What happens to a delayed ballot? It is thrown out. 

Regardless of the legality of the vote at the time the voter cast the ballot, the ballot has been legally disenfranchised when this happens. In other words, literally millions of voters will have voted on-time this year, cast their ballot through the mail, and had their ballot thrown in the trash by the end of this election. Through the simple method of sabotaging the postal sorting systems. 

That’s it. In one stupidly simple attack, the Postmaster General simply ordered sorting machines dismantled in targeted areas. Presto change-o millions of votes are delayed, and millions of votes will have been “legally” disenfranchised. 

And that’s how one simple trick might rig this whole thing for Trump.


Part 3 * – Lost in the Mail
How 5 Million Votes might just be the start of how many votes don’t get counted this year. 


Now look, I’m no Trump fan. Lots of people accuse me of playing into the chaos Trump has created around Vote-By-Mail. Many will say that Voting-By-Mail is safe, and the only way to vote during a pandemic. But neither are true. First, just because the idiot-in-chief goes after vote-by-mail with lies and projection, doesn’t make mail voting safe or accurate. And Second, postal voting was neither safe or accurate before 2020.

In Part 3 of this series, I will address the problems with mail voting systems, and then go over all the myriad ways in which your vote might not be counted by vote-by-mail, the system, before election night even begins. _________________________________________________________________________
Part 3 –Really Rough Edit

5 Million Votes Lost in The Mail


Can you even get to a final number of actual votes that are thrown out or lost in the mail?


The real problem with Donald Trump attacking our mail voting system is that the reality is much, much worse than the media is telling you when it comes to the accuracy of mail voting systems. While the President muddles the facts about mail voting with a constant stream of lies, the media and Democrats, in particular, have further harmed the public’s knowledge base as to the actual problems with mail voting. However, when it comes to a court of law, the Republicans have lots of places to attack the system and point to flaws, errors and inaccuracies.

First off, I’m going to circle back around to the fact that 16 years ago I named my research project, The No Vote By Mail Project, www.novbm.com. That’s because I am not against absentee voting. But the media, the politicians and the President have all confused this issue the most.

There are in fact many types of “absentee voting” and “mail voting” is one type. There are also computer voting systems, phone voting, and drop-off absentee voting systems that don’t require the voter to send their ballot through the byzantine, and controlled by the executive branch, postal service. 

Personally, I support drop-off absentee systems combined with early voting centers.  The drop-off absentee system eliminates a whole lot of problems inherent to mail voting. And a drop-off system can also re-establish the secret ballot, which mail ballot systems destroy. But I’ll get into all that in my conclusion (haha part 4 of my 3 part series).

Anyway, let’s say 150,000,000 voters cast a vote in 2020. 138 million voted in 2016, so it’s not a huge stretch to reach 150 million in 2020.  And about 90 Million have already voted early this year in 2020. So let us go with 150 million, just for a nice round number, and 90 Million early votes.


So let’s say 2/3rds of those who voted early, voted by mail, or roughly 60 million. And to back that up, currently The US Elections Project States the current number at  about that 60,484,338*


Anyway, we then need to choose an error rate. So let’s take North Carolina because it happens to be a pretty representative sample state. NC is fairly new to expanded mail voting, but they are doing their best to process the surge in mail ballots. They expect about 1.5 million mail ballots this election, and they have been reporting about a 3% ongoing error rate. So you could project 45,000 mail votes tossed in North Carolina’s General Election alone.  On the low end, Washington State, averages anywhere from about 1.7-2.5% error rate, a state that has gone almost entirely to mail voting, and is pointed to as the “model” for mail voting. While I suspect states that do worse will likely see 4 or 5% error rates, accounting for new voters, etc. So the error rate we have chosen will vary, from a low of 1.7 to a high of 5, and the standard of 3%.

So at maybe 60.5 Million Early Mail Votes, with anywhere from WA low of 1.7 to a more standard looking 3 percent error rate, that would result in anywhere from 1,020,000 to about 1,800,000 votes that get tossed just during the early voting period.  While 5% hits 3 million. 

We can therefore project, based on previous reports from Vote-By-Mail states and statistics available throughout 2020 elections, that the 3% standard error-rate predicts 2 Million Votes will likely have already been invalidated due mostly to the process of mail voting. Two million votes already disenfranchised, disavoyed and soon enough discarded and destroyed even before our traditional Tuesday voting day has even begun.

Anyway, now that we’re at 2 million. How do we get to 5 million? Well, some states, like California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington are already either all VBM states or majority VBM states. In fact, California reported 428,924 invalid votes in 2016 alone.

Now in swing states, considering the amount of litigation already launched to contest and toss more ballots, one would expect we could see up to half a million votes invalidated in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as North Carolina, and Florida.

Heck Miami-Dade County is already making the news this election, for… tossing ballots at about twice the rate for African and Hispanic Voters as their white counterparts.

“The rate of ballot rejections for Black voters is almost twice as high as for white voters, according to an analysis of state data by America Votes Florida, a progressive nonprofit. For Hispanic voters, it’s more than double.”



“As of Friday, election officials had set aside ballots from Black and Hispanic voters at two times the rate of ballots from White voters, according to an analysis by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith. For people younger than 24, the rate was more than four times what it was for those 65 and older. While the number of deficient mail ballots in Florida was relatively low one week before the election, at roughly 15,200 out of more than 4.3 million cast, that figure could rise sharply: Roughly 1.6 million Floridians still had outstanding mail ballots.”


There were 250 Million registered voters in the US in 2016, about 138 Million Turned out that year. About 75% of total registered voters have access to mail voting, or more than 188 Million voters. If everyone voted by mail that has access to it, with a 2-3% error historical error rate, 3.75 million to 5.625 million votes would be discarded. And that’s if everyone is playing nice, and based on older voter registration data.

Furthermore everyone is not playing nice. In fact, Republicans have launched lawsuits in most battleground states already to try and throw out as many ballots as possible… tens of millions.


We may well see unprecedented turn-out Tuesday throughout the country. And a ton of mail votes will still be arriving this weekend, Monday, Tuesday and at different times for the following 2 weeks after the election. Legally cast, many “legal to count” ballots will be arriving for days and weeks to come. Whether or not these ballots are counted will largely depend on which state they are cast in. Perhaps we should apply the 14th amendment to counting votes? For perhaps it would make sense if “equal protection under the law” was applied to both your right to vote and to have your vote counted accurately. It just might be important in a Democratic Republic.

Mail voting numbers, and the numbers thrown out will likely continue to increase from a relatively large baseline of 65% early voting.

In fact, The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Thus far, the Postal Service said it has processed more than 4.5 billion pieces of political and election mail, more than double the 2016 election cycle, including 122 million ballots. A spokesman said the Postal Service didn’t comment on third-party data.”

“As of Oct. 30, more than seven million mailed ballots had not been returned in the 13 most competitive states that require ballots to arrive on or before Election Day, a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the University of Florida’s U.S. Elections Project found. That’s about 28% of the more than 24 million ballots that had been tallied in those states, the Elections Project data show.”


Here we learn the Postal Service calculates 122 million ballots have already arrived. So at 3% error rate, we would expect a baseline of 3,660,000 ballots invalidated from that early voting set. If we hit 150,000,000 votes (2016 was about 148 Million), that number jumps to 4.5 Million. Now all you need is one state like California to simply invalidate about the same number, half a million ballots, as they have historically… And quite easily hit my original estimate of 5 Million trashed ballots in 2020.

But of course, that’s just the ballots they can count. Ballots that arrive and are invalidated are one thing. Ballots that never arrive, that’s a whole different story. Because while each state can only officially know how many ballots are printed and sent out to registered voters, you cannot know how many voters tried to return those ballots, and how many of those ballots were lost, suppressed or destroyed before received.

There are various ways that States legally disenfranchise mail ballots. And there are also nefarious ways individuals can also suppress or stuff votes as well.  But again, I’ll address that more in the conclusion of this series, in the next few days. Currently I’m trying to stick with statistics that concern “officially” rejected and invalidated ballots voted by mail. Conjecture and projections concerning unofficially uncounted ballots, is better left until then.


Conclusion — Stay Tuned

This election might take awhile…..

Mail Ballots, Then Hanging Chads of 2020?


Vote-By-Mail Headlines:

Why Pennsylvania’s Vote Count Could Change After Election Night

The surge in mail-in ballots could cause a big “blue shift.”


Your absentee ballot never showed up. Now what?


It May Be Too Late To Mail Back Your Ballot. Election Officials Stress Other Options


Court decision allows extension of absentee ballot deadlines in swing states of Pennsylvania and North Carolina


What to Do If You Change Your Mind About Voting by Mail


More than 1 percent of mail-in ballots may be rejected, say experts

“The vote-by-mail ballot rejections are going to be the hanging chads of 2000,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor.


Worried your mail-in ballot still hasn’t arrived? Here’s how to be sure your vote counts

If you’re concerned that you haven’t received your mail-in ballot, there are ways to be counted by showing up in person. Officials say ballots are still being sent out with less than a week before Election Day.


Still haven’t voted? Don’t send your ballot by mail.

The deadline has passed to safely mail your ballot. Here’s what to do if you still need to vote.


One Response

  1. To the Author: You said the Republicans and Trump had the post office ‘rigged, etc.’ Did you also blame them/Trump for your invalid vote in 2008? If the Dims are pushing mail-in voting, then you know corruption lies close behind. PA ‘illegally’ changed their voting deadline from their SCOPA (ruling from the bench). DUH! Their new slogan: VOTE Early, Often, and Late!!!” ‘Late’ votes are being dumped, some, all for Biden. WOW! 314-329-6857.

    a TRUE AMERICAN for Justice!!!

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