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Federal judge rules signatures on absentee ballots don't need to match records in South Carolina

Voters will now be given the opportunity to correct their signatures, if an election board official finds an issue

Updated: October 29, 2020 - 12:50pm

A federal judge has ruled that South Carolina election officials cannot reject mail-in ballots due to signature mismatches.

The ruling Tuesday, from U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel – an appointee of President Obama – requires the state to inspect and reprocess ballots that have signatures election officials believe are mismatches. 

“Previously, voters who submitted a ballot with a mismatched signature were not notified of the issue nor given an opportunity to fix it before their ballot was tossed out," said the League of Woman Voters of South Carolina, who filed the suit.

In accordance with Gergel's ruling, officials now must go to the court and obtain permission to request a signature match for a suspicious ballot, and then give the voter an opportunity to correct the signature.

"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 absentee voting portion of state law]," wrote South Carolina's elections chief Marci Andino, according to reporting by The State newspaper.

Previously, it was the job of an election manager in South Carolina to compare the signature on a ballot with the signature on a voter's driver's license, registration notification, or other identification, and request additional proof of the individual's right to vote, should they think it necessary. However, that rule does not extend to absentee or mail-in ballots. 

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