Election results certified Monday by the state show 66,506 ballots were rejected in the general election – one of around every 70 votes cast.

Around 1.4% of ballots cast were rejected, roughly double the rate from the 2016 presidential election, when the 23,728 rejected ballots amounted to 0.6% of ballots. Turnout was much higher this year, and more than 4.3 million votes – 93.5% of all votes – were cast by mail, a change due to the pandemic.

“With the election changes that we saw this year, it’s not that surprising we have so many rejected ballots. And we have rejected ballots every election, for any number of reasons,” said Henal Patel, director of the Democracy & Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

The rejection rate was about half of the level from the July primary, when 40,845 ballots were rejected out of nearly 1.5 million cast, almost 2.8%.

“As a state we are doing better,” Patel said. “A lot of that is state election officials really doing what they can for voter education, the changes we made to the election system, the fact that we have a ballot cure procedure now which we sued for and now is codified and more people were used to it or at least understood it by the time of the general election.

“And a lot of it has to do with voters,” she said. “It was clear voters were deeply invested in ensuring that their ballots counted, understandably. So they did everything they could to make sure that happened.”

Still, the number of rejected ballots was nearly triple the 2016 level and enough to make up New Jersey’s 17th largest municipality if all those would-be voters all lived in one place.

“It’s still thousands of ballots that were rejected, and we need to do better,” Patel said. “That’s always the case. We should be working to do better.”

Rejection rates varied from around 2.6% of votes cast in Middlesex, Union and Hudson counties to less than 1% of votes in seven counties, led by less than 0.4% of votes in Gloucester County.

“It is a huge disparity,” Patel said. “Like I said, you’re always going to have some level of rejection unfortunately. But you want to minimize them. We should all be aiming to have Gloucester numbers.”

Reasons for the rejections have been recorded for 71% of the ballots so far, around 47,000.

More than 15,000 were rejected because the voter’s signature didn’t match the poll book. More than 11,000 ballots were rejected because its certificate was missing. On nearly 8,400 more, the certificate wasn’t signed.

Around 2,000 were designated as having been turned down because they were received after the deadline. Around 1,600 didn’t have an enclosed ballot.

Nearly 1,000 were rejected because of bearer-related problems, most commonly because the bearer exceeded his or her limit. More than 950 were rejected because their voter registration ID was missing. Two hundred had moved out of the county.

Nearly 6,700 rejections were listed as happening for some other, unspecified reason. There were also a handful rejected for other identified reasons.

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The 47,000 ballots designated as rejected, so far, include 17,833 Democrats, 8,953 Republicans, 907 affiliated with a minor party and 19,305 unaffiliated voters.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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