Florida Election Officials Slapped With Lawsuit Over ‘Wet Signature’ Rule

March 19, 2023 by Dan McCue
Florida Election Officials Slapped With Lawsuit Over ‘Wet Signature’ Rule
Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida election officials have been slapped with a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s 2005 “wet signature” requirement.

Since 2005, Florida has required individuals registering to vote to submit their application with an “original signature.”

In a lawsuit filed in federal court on Thursday, the plaintiffs — Vote.org, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and the Florida State Conference of the NAACP — contend Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd and the 67 county supervisors of elections have interpreted the rule too narrowly.

As a result, they’ve required that all voter registrations be signed in ink, and have rejected applications received by email or fax or submitted with an electronic signature.

The plaintiffs allege these actions violate the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits denying “the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission … if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under state law to vote in such election.” 

They also go on to argue the “method of signing a voter registration application bears no relation to the statutory qualifications and does not serve any real purpose. 

“Florida law generally treats digital or electronic signatures as equal in all ways to wet signatures, and most Floridians can submit their voter registration application online with a digital signature,” the complaint says. “Other Florida citizens are denied this opportunity for reasons having nothing to do with their qualifications as Florida voters.”

“This restriction serves no purpose other than to impede some Floridians’ right to vote,” they continued.

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the wet signature requirement is unconstitutional and for the court to enjoin its enforcement.

The office of Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. 

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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