More than two dozen primary ballots were rejected because the voter was dead, among thousands tossed by the Secretary of State’s office during the first statewide election since mail-in voting was made permanent.

“While we always want to keep our rejection rate as low as possible, in many cases, the number of rejected ballots shows that the systems we have in place are working,” a spokesperson for Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s office told the Herald Tuesday.

Of 4,838,359 eligible voters, only 1,052,414 cast a ballot in one of the two-party primaries, an overall turnout of 21.8%, according to data Galvin’s office shared. Mail-in and early voting accounted for just over half of votes cast by a margin of 5,693 votes.

More than 11,000 ballots had to be rejected during the mail-in process, according to Galvin’s office.

That number may seem small, but it’s a cause for concern for opponents of mail-in voting. Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl’s campaign says they see any rejected ballots as a problem.

“Geoff Diehl and Leah Allen are committed to ensuring the integrity of our elections, and it has been their longstanding belief that mail-in voting presents a concern. The high number of mail-in ballots rejected during the recent primary is concrete evidence that they’re right to be worried about the process. Whenever there is evidence that voters’ choices might not be registered when they vote, or that votes could be tabulated inaccurately, that is immediate cause for worry,” Campaign Manager Amanda Orlando said.

She said it’s a concern that isn’t going to go away.

“Democrats on Beacon Hill made mail-in voting permanent this year without conducting any meaningful review of the process from when it was first used, and without instituting any additional safeguards to ensure election integrity. This will continue to present a question and cause for concern not just with the upcoming election, but with any future election in which mail-in voting is used,” she said.

Though the data shows 32 voters were made ineligible when they died after requesting a ballot and 327 mail-in applicants had already voted, Galvin’s office said no illegalities have been shown.

“There is no indication in the data of any unlawful voting. That likely would have been brought to our attention once the clerk detected it,” the spokesperson said. “When a ballot is rejected, that is itself a check against any unlawful voting.”

A dead voter isn’t necessarily disqualified from voting, if they did so before they died, Galvin’s office said.

“A ballot is typically rejected as ‘deceased’ because the clerk learned of the voter’s death after the ballot was already mailed. If a ballot were to come back from a deceased voter, the clerk would check the date of voting and postmark to see if the voter cast it before they died. A ballot can be counted as long as the voter was alive when they cast it,” the spokesperson said.

Most rejected ballots, about 8,000, simply arrived too late.

“Ballots arriving too late to be counted continues to be the most common reason for rejection,” Galvin’s office said.

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