A federal appeals court allowed Texas to keep rules in place that permit election officials to throw out mail-in ballots over signature mismatches without notifying voters, The Texas Tribune reports.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a district court order last month requiring the state to change its process to allow voters to correct signature issues before the election and on Monday allowed the state to keep its current rules in place. The court will review the case in full only after the election.
A new process would compromise the integrity of mail ballots “as Texas officials are preparing for a dramatic increase of mail-in voting, driven by a global pandemic,” Judge Jerry Smith, a Reagan appointee, said in the decision.
“Texas’s strong interest in safeguarding the integrity of its elections from voter fraud far outweighs any burden the state’s voting procedures place on the right to vote,” Smith wrote.
Voters can’t fix errors:
The state election code does not have any standards for signature review and does not require election officials to notify voters that their ballot was rejected until 10 days after the election.
State law also does not have a process allowing voters to challenge their rejection.
Voting rights groups who joined the lawsuit said they would urge election officials to voluntarily allow voters to fix signature problems.
“It will affect this 2020 election, so voters will not be notified in time, and so I think the main thing we’re trying to do now is notify counties that ballot boards are not required to give pre-election day notice, but they can,” H. Drew Galloway, executive director of MOVE Texas, told The Texas Tribune. “We encourage them to follow the original intent of the lower courts here so folks (whose ballots were rejected) can go vote in person, or contest that decision.”
District judge said rules violate the Constitution:
District Court Judge Orlando Garcia ruled last month that the current process "plainly violates certain voters' constitutional rights" and was "inherently fraught with error with no recourse for voters."
The judge said the rules place a “severe burden” on voters without "meaningful opportunity" to "cure" their ballot.
"As a result, those voters face complete disenfranchisement, and thus, their right to vote is at stake," he said.