South Carolina Counties Told Not to Reject Absentee Ballots Over Mismatched Signatures
A federal judge has prohibited the rejection of absentee ballots in South Carolina on the basis of a perceived mismatch of the voter’s signature and ordered a review of any ballots already set aside due to alleged signature discrepancies.
In a ruling handed down Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said before county election boards can employ signature-matching as a way to determine the validity of a ballot, they must first seek and receive permission from the court.
In addition, Gergel said, county officials must give voters an opportunity to correct any perceived issues with their signatures before discounting their votes.
It has been reported that at least 10 Palmetto State counties had employed the practice of matching signatures as a method for rejecting otherwise legitimate ballots.
On Monday, the South Carolina Election Commission ordered all counties to immediately stop using the signature matching procedures.
“If any county board of voter registration and elections is employing or plans to employ a signature matching procedure, it must stop doing so immediately,” wrote Marci Andino, executive director of the commission, in a directive sent to all counties.
“Further, any absentee ballot that, as a result of a signature matching procedure, has been rejected, disqualified or otherwise set aside so that it will not be counted should immediately be included with those absentee ballots that will be counted, assuming that absentee ballot otherwise complies with [the South Carolina election law],” she added.
Under South Carolina law, poll workers are supposed to compare voters’ signatures on the poll list to the signature on their voter identification card. However, nothing in the state law directs elections officials to use a similar comparison upon receipt of an absentee ballot.
Judge Gergel became involved in the matter after the League of Women Voters of South Carolina alleged that Greenville County, in the Upstate, was paying individuals to match signatures and that Richland County, home to the state Capitol, was considering hiring a vendor to perform computerized signature matching.
In a written statement, Christe McCoy-Lawrence, co-president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, said Gergel’s decision “is a significant win for voter confidence in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our elections with rule changes, delays, and massive surges in mail voting.
“This ruling erases the uncertainty voters might feel about whether their absentee ballot signature may not exactly match a previous one on record,” she said.
According to the state Elections Commission, more than one million South Carolinians have already cast their ballots in the 2020 General Election, doubling the record for absentee voting set in the 2016 General Election.
Based on current trends, 1.3 million voters could vote before election day, which could be approximately half of the total turnout in the election, the commission said.
The highest turnout in a presidential election in the past 25 years was 76% in 2008. If the 2020 General Election matches that turnout, approximately 2.7 million of the 3.5 million registered voters in South Carolina will vote.
In The News
Today, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said the state has shipped its one-millionth N95 mask as part of ongoing efforts to ensure frontline workers have access to the critical personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to limit their exposure to COVID-19. The announcement comes after Evers recently... Read More
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently announced that the New Jersey Department of Transportation will be awarding $161.25 million in municipal aid grants to advance road, bridge, safety, and quality-of-life improvements. Over 540 cities and towns throughout the state will benefit from the grant funds. “These... Read More
The disinformation scenario that local election officials feared months ago has come true: President Donald Trump's false claims of voter fraud have been picked up by many state and local Republican officials across the country, and polls now show that more than two-thirds of GOP voters believe the 2020 election... Read More
NEW YORK — A COVID-19 vaccine may be months from reaching millions of Americans. Getting all those shots into arms will be a monumental task. Shreveport, Louisiana, is getting ready now. The city recently completed a test run, one of about a dozen across the state. Health officials... Read More
TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Thursday night, extending the deadline by which counties must certify the results of the 2020 election. The immediate effect of the order relates to two counties, Ocean and Salem, whose boards of elections have... Read More
ATLANTA — U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R- Ga., is facing a pair of ethics complaints after she solicited campaign contributions for her runoff campaign during an on-camera interview at the U.S. Capitol. The Democratic Party of Georgia and the American Democracy Legal Fund both filed complaints with the Senate ethics committee focused on her Wednesday interview with Fox... Read More