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Mistakes That Can Disqualify Your Ballot

A recent analysis found that more than 558,000 presidential primary election ballots were rejected because of mistakes. Yikes! That means that over 100,000 people didn’t get their votes counted or voices heard. 

We don’t want something like this to happen to you. You don’t want your vote discounted due to avoidable mistakes.

Keep reading to learn what commonly-made errors can result in ballots being disqualified. We also share tips to help make sure your ballot is accepted.

Mistakes that Lead to Ballot Rejection

Voting can be confusing, which can lead to mistakes and ultimately rejected ballots. This is especially true since every state has its own unique set of rules and deadlines. However, you can start busting this confusion by understanding where people most often go wrong with their ballots.

Mistake #1: Ballot Submitted Too Late

This applies to absentee and mail-in voting. For a variety of reasons, ballots can arrive to their official destination after the cut-off date/time. Ballots that hit the box late aren’t counted.

Mistake #2: Missing, Improper, or Inconsistent Signature

Only correctly signed ballots are accepted. Ones that have no autograph or are signed in the wrong place can be rejected. You also need to make sure that the signature you’re using on your ballot matches the one that’s on file from your voter registration.

Mistake #3: Insufficient Supplemental Documentation

This varies from state to state, but you may have additional requirements to cast your ballot. Examples include: witness signature, copy of photo ID, or notary seal. If your state obliges documentation in addition to your ballot slip, and you don’t provide it, your ballot could be excluded.

Mistake #4: Wrong Envelope Usage

Your ballot packet includes everything you need. Including interior privacy-shield and exterior return-mail/drop-off envelopes. Not using them, as intended, or using other envelopes can get your ballot ejected. Alternatively, depositing an empty envelope in the mail or collection box also means your vote doesn’t get included.

Mistake #5: Insufficient Postage

Some states prevent this possible issue by pre-paying the postage (Yay!), others…not so much. Without enough postage on your envelope, your mail-in ballot’s a no-go.

Mistake #6: Wrong Polling/Collection Location

Polling places and collection box locations change from election to election, and this year is certainly no different. If you’re hand-delivering your ballot or voting in person, confirm where the official collection points are and when they’re open.

Tips for Unrejectable Ballots

Now that we’ve highlighted some seriously alarming stats about rejected ballots, let’s shift focus. Below are some ways to prevent this from happening to you. You’re going through the effort to vote, so you might as well do what you can to ensure it’s accepted.

Tip #1: Prepare Yourself in Advance

Educate yourself on your state’s voting rules and the specifics of your local, regional, state, and national elections as early as possible. There are tons of trustworthy sources of information — like IGNITE! — to learn from. You might also get a voter pamphlet, which outlines all the candidates, advisory questions, polling details, and more, in the mail.

Tip #2: Read & Follow All Ballot & Voting Instructions

This tip can go a long way to your ballot being in acceptable condition. The instructions that come with your ballot form will inform you of everything you need to do (like signatures, additional documentation, etc.), how to correct mistakes or change your selections, and what to do with your completed ballot.

Tip #3: Use Blue or Black Ink

When filling in your ballot slip, be sure to use a pen with indelible ink that’s blue or black. In fact, marking your ballot with blue ink might help you see at-a-glance if you’ve made a selection for each contest. Also, some jurisdictions reject ballots that use red or other colored ink or pencil. 

Tip #4: Fill in the Ballot Neatly

Most, if not all, ballots are like those Scantron forms used for tests at school. You need to fully fill in the oval next to your selection — no specks of white! Similarly, you need to be careful not to go outside the lines. Do not use checkmarks or Xs. Stray marks on your ballot can lead to rejection as well. If you’re using a write-in space, print very clearly so it’s easy to read.

Tip #5: Fill in the Ballot Completely

Yes, you may decide to opt-out of a race or two. But you definitely want to fill in all the minimally required sections, like that signature space.

Tip #6: Take Your Time.

Haste makes mistakes. No, that’s not the saying, but it’s still true. Slow down enough to make sure you’re following all the instructions and didn’t miss any sections of your ballot.

Tip #7: Review Your Completed Ballot

Think you’re done? Give your ballot another look-over just to be sure. Confirm you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, filled in all the ovals, don’t have any stray marks, signed your ballot, put the ballot in the proper envelopes, etc.

Tip #8: Return Your Ballot Early

If you’re doing a mail-in or absentee ballot, try to return it at least two weeks before Election Day. This should give ample time for it to make its way through the postal and collection systems.

Tip #9: Vote In Person

Absentee and mail-in voting are incredibly popular, and getting more so with every election. Totally understandable. But, there’s no way around the fact that ballots cast in-person have a higher acceptance rate. If you decide to go to a polling place in the flesh, do it smartly (e.g., mask up, go at a time when fewer people, etc.). Newer research is showing that it can be done relatively safely.

Tip #10: Support Your Family & Friends

This isn’t about how you’re voting, but rather the mechanics of completing and submitting a ballot. If you’re struggling with how to fill in your ballot, it’s ok to seek help. Ask your parents, teacher, or other person you trust for assistance. And on the flip side, if you’re a ballot-filling pro — maybe you can help others understand what to do.


There are so many common mistakes that result in ballots being rejected. If you don’t want yours disqualified — meaning your vote isn’t counted — learn about these errors.

Then heed our hefty list of tips, which can help you complete and submit your ballot correctly. Armed with proper knowledge, you’re more likely to successfully cast your vote and #IGNITEtheVote.

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