California elections officials must notify voters before rejecting their mail-in ballots over concerns that the signature is not authentic, a San Francisco judge ruled this week. Current California election law allows officials to toss out vote-by-mail ballots if they suspect the signature on the envelope does not match the signature on file for the voter, without giving the voter a chance to respond. In November, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Northern California and law firm Cooley LLP sued Secretary of State Alex Padilla, arguing the practice is unconstitutional.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer Jr. agreed and ruled Monday that rejecting ballots without warning violates due process. He ruled that voters must be given a chance to explain and correct any discrepancies so their ballot might be still be counted.
“Tens of thousands of people were being denied their right to vote because a government official was making arbitrary decisions about penmanship,” Michael Risher, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, said in a statement. “Handwriting varies and a perceived mismatch does not give elections officials the right to refuse to count a vote.”