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Elections Q&As for Lawmakers: How Do Ballot Curing and Ballot Tracking Affect Election Integrity?

Ballot curing and ballot tracking and curing aren’t just tools for election accuracy but also for enhancing voter confidence and participation.

By Lesley Kennedy  |  February 29, 2024

About this series: NCSL hosted legislators and legislative staff in December 2023 to answer common questions surrounding election processes and options, with an eye toward bill drafting in 2024 and beyond. Experts delved into topics ranging from absentee and mail voting and the role of poll watchers to technology and maintaining clean voter rolls. State Legislatures News broke down the questions and answers to help inform lawmakers on the intricacies of elections. Check Elections Q&As for Lawmakers often for more information.

The Expert: Paul Gronke, professor of political science, Reed College

Ballot curing and ballot tracking and curing aren’t just tools for election accuracy but also for enhancing voter confidence and participation.

Gronke, who founded the Early Voting Information Center in 2005, studies the procedures that aim to ensure the democratic process is as inclusive and error-free as possible.

Ballot curing, Gronke says, involves laws or procedures that allow voters to fix errors typically associated with absentee and mail-in ballots.

"These errors are things like missing signatures, signatures not matching, and incorrectly entered identifying information," he says.

Top Two Takeaways

  • By allowing voters to correct errors such as missing or mismatched signatures, states can significantly decrease the number of rejected ballots, which can be pivotal in ensuring every vote is counted.
  • Ballot tracking systems provide voters with the reassurance that their ballots are being processed correctly, similar to knowing luggage is aboard a plane. These systems not only improve transparency but can also increase voter confidence in the electoral system and potentially boost voter turnout.

Provisional ballots, according to Gronke, ensure that no voter is turned away at the polling place.

"Provisional ballots are counted eventually according to data," he says, noting that although some ballots are not counted, the number is significantly smaller compared to those rejected in the vote-by-mail system.

Gronke stresses that many vote-by-mail rejections are avoidable, suggesting a need for better systems to alert voters of issues in time for corrections.

"I think that's a problem," he says, pointing out the impact of timely ballot curing on the overall electoral process and the potential to reduce the number of rejected ballots.

There are, according to Gronke, significant disparities in rejection rates across states and within key demographic groups. "What it appears to be is lack of familiarity and need for improved voter outreach," he says, adding that better voter education and ballot design could minimize these issues.

Ballot tracking, meanwhile, is not unlike the notifications received when luggage is loaded onto a plane.

"It's really very similar to, 'OK, great—my luggage is with me, this is great!’ Or, ‘Oh, my gosh, the plane's taking off, and I haven't gotten that text message yet!'" Gronke says, noting the reassurance that ballot tracking can provide to voters.

Still, Gronke says more research is needed to better understand how officials use ballot tracking data and its effects on election processes.

“The good news is we have not seen evidence of conscious bias from election officials,” he says. “People are not looking at particular ballots or names and rejecting them.”

Lesley Kennedy is NCSL’s director of publishing and digital content.

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