Mismatched Signatures On Mail-In Ballots Shaping Up to Be Major Election Legal Battle

As the US prepares for an election that will be characterized in part by the widely expanded use of mail-in ballots, Republicans and Democrats have already started to battle over a weakness in the system. 

In particular, the two parties are arguing over a very common way that mail-in ballots are rejected: the signature on the ballot doesn’t match what the state has on file for the voter. 

Republicans have been arguing for strict matches, while Democrats are pushing for a more lenient stance that allows a person to prove who they are before a vote is officially thrown out. 

The issue is especially important for Democrats, who expect a much larger percentage of their voters to use mail-in ballots compared to Republicans. 

A lesson from primary season:

According to outlets like the Washington Post and NPR, more than 500,000 mail-in ballots were rejected across the country during primary season. Of course, not all of these were because of the signature issue, but it has consistently been cited as one of the top issues. Every state has different laws about what constitutes a spoiled ballot, and many of these rules can seem arbitrary. In New York, for instance, a ballot can be thrown out if it is sealed with a piece of tape. 

In some states like Wisconsin, it was reported that almost 1 in every 50 ballots was rejected. 

A catch-22:

Perhaps most frustratingly, the signature verification process at the center of this fight is one of many things that makes voting by mail so secure.

However, with many more people than usual requesting mail-in ballots this year and states less experienced with mail-in voting having to accommodate the increased numbers, rejected ballots could easily affect the outcome of an election in battleground states. 

Legislative and legal issues: 

Though early voting has already started in 2 states, the legal fights over mail-in ballots are far from over.

A lawsuit in Texas related to the signature issue was recently ruled on by a federal judge, resulting in the state now being required to notify voters if a ballot has been marked for rejection, and allowing them time to fix it. 

A similar lawsuit was filed by Democrats in North Carolina, who argue that the state’s current process for addressing mail-in ballot errors is insufficient. 

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