A federal judge has ordered county election officials in South Carolina to stop rejecting absentee ballots based on mismatched signatures.
The decision issued Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, an appointee by then-President Barack Obama, requires any election board seeking to use signature matching procedures to receive permission from him. He also required that the board give any voter whose ballot signature appears not to match an opportunity to correct the error, The State reported.
The ruling only applies to mismatched signatures. Ballots which arrive without a voter’s signature or witness signature will be disqualified.
Gergel issued his directive after the League of Women Voters of South Carolina sued claiming that one county was using individuals to compare signatures while another was using computer verification.
The ruling comes a day after the South Carolina Election Commission issued a directive to counties to discontinue using signature mismatches to invalidate ballots despite South Carolina law requiring poll managers to compare a voter’s signature on a poll list – which is signed at the time of casting a ballot – with their one on identification such as a driver license or registration notification.
South Carolina State Election Commission Executive Director Marci Andino said there was no basis in law for applying a similar procedure to absentee ballots.
It also comes in the wake of the ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which last week said signatures on ballots and those on the voter registration form did not need to match. It was the same Pennsylvania Supreme Court that ruled more than a month earlier that ballots that arrived as many as three days after Election Day should be counted.
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