Over 223K Mail-In Ballots Bounced as ‘Undeliverable’ in Recent Primary Election in Major US City


If you support universal (or near-universal) mail-in balloting for the 2020 election, you also have to believe we can get it right (or right enough) the first time, even though mail-in balloting on that level has never been tried before.

You also then have to explain away why, in Clark County, Nevada, universal mail-in balloting resulted in one out of every six ballots being “undeliverable” in a recent primary.

According to the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative election integrity watchdog legal firm, over 223,000 ballots bounced because the addresses were incorrect or outdated.

This, PILF said in a news release, was 17 percent of all ballots in Clark County — by far the most populous county in the state of Nevada, comprised of Las Vegas and the immediate metro area.

“Unlike Washoe County and others, Clark County (Las Vegas metro) opted to send actual mail ballots to every registered voter on file for the June 2020 Primary election,” the organization said. “The figures released by the Clark County Election Department to the Foundation outline the risks of the forthcoming all-mail election for Nevada purely from cost and process error standpoints.

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“Prior to the election, county officials testified that an all-county mailing would be needlessly expensive and result in significant amounts of ballots sent to wrong or outdated addresses, given that ‘inactive’ registrants would be included in the bulk mailings. They projected an expense of $184,738 to send to inactive registrants with an expectation that at least 90% would bounce back undeliverable in the mail.”

Of the 1,325,934 ballots sent out, 223,469 were undeliverable. This is even more staggering when you consider 305,008 ballots were accepted and returned. Running the numbers, that’s roughly three ballots undeliverable for every four that delivered and returned.

“The addresses that we used were provided by the voters when they registered,” Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin told The Washington Free Beacon.

“If they no longer reside at the address they provided to us, then we would expect that mail to be returned to us, which is what happened.”

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Let’s put this into some more context, though, as PILF did using data from U.S. Election Assistance Commission Surveys.

In the 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 general elections, the state of Nevada saw 5,863 mail-in ballots returned undeliverable.

That’s not an average. That’s combined.

“These numbers show how vote by mail fails. New proponents of mail balloting don’t often understand how it actually works,” PILF President J. Christian Adams said in the news release.

“States like Oregon and Washington spent many years building their mail voting systems and are notably aggressive with voter list maintenance efforts,” Adams said. “Pride in their own systems does not somehow transfer across state lines. Nevada, New York, and others are not and will not be ready for November.”

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PILF communications director Logan Churchwell said the elections department in Clark County told the County Commission that sending out a ballot to every voter who was officially registered was “a costly exercise of sending mail to addresses that were sure to bounce any parcel.”

It was done anyway, and here we are.

“Nevada’s voter rolls aren’t maintained to the standard required for an all-mail experience like Oregon or Washington,” Churchwell told The Free Beacon.

“The Nevada governor is foolish to think he can replicate his regional neighbors’ years of development and practices with mail voting in a matter of months with a weekend emergency bill,” he said.

President Donald Trump echoed this in a tweet Wednesday, saying, “Nevada has ZERO infrastructure for Mail-In Voting. It will be a corrupt disaster if not ended by the Courts. It will take months, or years, to figure out.”

That emergency bill also authorized ballot harvesting — the process of allowing someone who isn’t related to the voter to collect mail-in ballots. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the GOP is likely to sue over that provision; the Trump administration has already sued the state over its intention to send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter.

The Review-Journal article Tuesday said that “officials entrusted with carrying out the Nov. 3 general election report no major problems with the changes, saying Nevadans will have access to a safe election with timely, accurate results.” I hope Review-Journal writer Rory Appleton smiled as he wrote that.

While polling data is scattered, according to RealClearPolitics, several sources have moved it from a toss-up state to leaning Democrat. NPR made the move this week, while Politico’s Election Forecast did so last month.

In the 2018 election, meanwhile, ballot harvesting was credited with a slate of Democrat House wins in California. According to Politico, California has declined to alter its policy allowing the process despite the potential risk of party volunteers going door-to-door collecting ballots in a relatively uncontrolled environment.

Given that this was just passed as part of an emergency bill, Nevada has no experience with ballot harvesting.

Clark County, at least, has slightly more experience with universal mail-in voting, having 17 percent of its ballots ending up undelivered.

We’re supposed to make the assumption that, between June and November, the county managed to fix the problems. Not only with the undelivered ballots, mind you, but with the deluge of voters who’ll be requesting a change of address once they realize they didn’t receive their ballot because of incorrect voter information.

And then we’re supposed to assume the state can handle and regulate ballot harvesting — a process that didn’t just lead to the Democrats’ near-sweep of California swing districts in 2018 but also the most egregious case of voter fraud in recent memory.

That involved a Republican — North Carolina GOP candidate Mark Harris, who was declared an early winner until charges of fraudulent ballot harvesting forced a new election, which he didn’t take part in. Harris employed a political operative to harvest ballots who allegedly took blank ballots with signatures on them — with the not-unpredictable result that there were “extreme statistical outliers” that favored Harris.

So Clark County and Nevada will have all of this sorted out by Election Day — and will be prepared to count an insane amount of ballots.

It’s not just Clark County, of course. In New York City on Tuesday, the winner of two hotly contested congressional primaries affected by mail-in balloting issues were announced, according to The New York Times. Sure, there were a few teething problems, right? If you consider the fact that the primaries were held on June 26, well, yes.

But if we implement nationwide mail-in balloting in just a few months, everything will be fine. All this will be sorted out and our worries about universal mail-in will be a distant memory.

And I’m Ross Perot.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture