Here’s how to prevent your mail-in ballot from being rejected — and what to do if it is

The risk of your ballot being rejected is real, whether you forgot to follow the instructions included in the mailer, or you forgot to sign the envelope. 

Voters at a polling station at the Queens Public Library in New York, on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, the first day of early voting in the state.

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With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 general election cycle has been like no other. As many Massachusetts voters opt for mail-in ballots this year, it’s important to avoid any hiccups — as if the year hasn’t been full of them — and make sure your vote counts. 

The risk of your ballot being rejected is real, whether you forgot to follow the instructions included in the mailer, or you forgot to sign the envelope. 

During the primaries, the secretary of state’s office released data showing that nearly 18,000 ballots were thrown out for varying reasons. A recent Washington Post analysis found that more than 534,000 mail-in ballots from 23 states were also rejected during primaries this year. 


Ahead, read a breakdown of how to avoid getting your ballot rejected, and what next steps to take if your vote has already been thrown out. 

What are the most common reasons a mail-in vote is rejected?

It’s most important to carefully read and follow the instructions packed inside your envelope. Be sure to use either blue or black ink, and do not stain or tear your ballot so it can be processed correctly, according to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office.

Next, be mindful of stuffing your completed ballot into the secrecy envelope and signing the affidavit. When your local election official receives your ballot, they will compare this signature to the one they have on file for you from your ballot application. If the ballot envelope was not signed by the same person who signed the absentee ballot application, then the signature will lead to a mismatch and the vote will be rejected. Similarly, without a signed secrecy envelope, ballots will not be counted.  


Another common reason your vote may be rejected is if it isn’t postmarked by Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3 and received by Friday, Nov. 6. 

How do I know if my ballot has been rejected? 

You can keep an eye on the status of your ballot here

Through the state site, you’ll be able to see the date your ballot was mailed, the date your ballot was received at your local election office, and whether your ballot has been accepted or rejected along with the reason why. 

What do I do after finding out my ballot has been rejected? 

There are two routes to making sure your vote still gets counted, according to Galvin’s office. 

If there is time, your local election official will automatically send you a new ballot.


On the other hand, you also have the option to vote in-person before 8 p.m. on Election Day. This route is open to voters whose ballots may have never reached their local election office as well. 

For voting in-person, the polls will be open on Nov. 3, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Locals will be encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing. You can find your polling location here

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