Georgia’s rejection of mail ballots over mismatched signatures halted by judge

Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Stacey Abrams speaks as her Republican opponent Secretary of State Brian Kemp looks on during a debate in Atlanta Georgia

Georgia’s rejection of mail ballots over mismatched signatures halted by judge

- A federal judge has issued a temporary order that would block Georgia's election officials from rejecting any absentee ballots under Georgia's Voter Signature Match Law without giving voters the opportunity to confirm their identity.

The lawyers behind both lawsuits had filed emergency requests asking May to make certain immediate changes while the litigation is pending. Election officials are not handwriting experts, the ACLU argued, and voters had no chance verify their eligibility if election officials thought their signature was invalid.

May's order covers only part of the controversy over rejected absentee ballots, because mismatched signatures are only one of the issues at hand.

"It's a stain on our system of democracy when less than a month before an election which could produce the first African-American female governor in our nation's history we are seeing this type of voter suppression scheme attempted by a state official whose candidacy for the governorship produces an irremediable conflict of interest", said Johnson.

Abrams' campaign said the recording shows "Brian Kemp's contempt for democracy is now on full display as he flaunts his fear that his office's blatant efforts at voter suppression won't be sufficient to win this election for him". The American Civil Liberties Union sued over the signature match requirement last week after data showed that a single county in the state was rejecting a disproportionately high number of absentee ballots.

The law says voters are to be notified "promptly" of any rejection, but no time frame is provided.

They asked that the judge's order be put on hold pending appeal.

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The process must be completed before election return certification, which has a deadline of 5 p.m. the Monday after the election, the order says.

May gave the parties 24 hours to offer objections to her order before she enters a preliminary injunction that could become permanent.

In addition to vote changing, other voters have reported that their ballot cards have been rejected once inserted into the machines. One of the lawsuits also challenges the rejection of absentee ballots because of what it calls technical errors, like writing the current year in a space designated for the voter's birth year or signing on the wrong line.

For an absentee ballot application with an apparent signature mismatch, election officials must send the voter a provisional ballot along with information explaining how the provisional ballot process works, the order says. She had said during a hearing Tuesday that she was especially concerned about people whose signature doesn't match and who may not be able to vote in person if their absentee ballot is rejected.

Abrams addressed the issue at the debate, saying: "Twenty-six years ago, as a college freshman, I along with many other Georgians, including the governor of Georgia, were deeply disturbed by the racial divisiveness that was embedded in the state flag with that Confederate symbol".

"Preliminarily, the Court does not understand how assuring that all eligible voters are permitted to vote undermines integrity of the election process", May notes.

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