Allegations that Georgia’s Republican-led election officials are unfairly throwing out mailed ballots over hyper-technical errors are set to go before a federal judge two weeks before Election Day. Hundreds — perhaps thousands — of ballots are being rejected because voters’ signatures don’t appear to match the ones on file, or because the voter oath is signed on the wrong line, two lawsuits claim. And would-be voters don’t get a chance to fix the errors or provide explanations, they say. The practice adopted by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has a lopsided impact on likely Democratic voters, according to the lawsuits — an allegation that carries extra significance because Kemp, a Republican, is running for governor on Nov. 6 in one of the nation’s most-watched races.
The issue over signatures is separate from a lawsuit over Georgia’s “exact-match” law that left more than 53,000 people off the voting rolls because there were minor discrepancies in information provided on registration applications and the voters’ government records. A hearing is set for Oct. 29 and a ruling favoring the plaintiffs in the mail-in ballots’ case might help those in the bigger one.
Lawyers for the state in the absentee and mail-in ballot cases said in court filings that the plaintiffs, including a Democratic candidate for state office and Muslim and Asian groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, failed to identify any individual voters who hadn’t been given a chance to fix perceived errors.’…
…But plaintiffs in one of the cases want a court order forcing Kemp to alert would-be voters by mail, telephone or email if their ballot applications are rejected and to explain why and how to address the issues. They also want signature deficiencies to be decided by a bipartisan review committee, saying age, disability and physical and mental condition are all possible reasons for signatures that don’t have an exact match. Signature rejections are also more likely to impact voters who speak English as a second language, they said.