Judge Issues New Rules For Absentee Ballot Signature Match Issues In Georgia

TUCKER, GA - JUNE 20:  'I'm a Georgia Voter' stickers are available for people to cast their ballots during a special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election at St. Bede's Episcopal Church on June 20, 2017 in Tucker, Georgia. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff and Republican candidate Karen Handel are running to replace Tom Price, who is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The election will fill a congressional seat that has been held by a Republican since the 1970s.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
TUCKER, GA - JUNE 20: 'I'm a Georgia Voter' stickers are available for people to cast their ballots during a special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election at St. Bede's Episcopal Church o... TUCKER, GA - JUNE 20: 'I'm a Georgia Voter' stickers are available for people to cast their ballots during a special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election at St. Bede's Episcopal Church on June 20, 2017 in Tucker, Georgia. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff and Republican candidate Karen Handel are running to replace Tom Price, who is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The election will fill a congressional seat that has been held by a Republican since the 1970s. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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October 25, 2018 3:42 pm
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After indicating Wednesday that she intended to block election officials in Georgia from rejecting absentee ballots for allegedly mismatching signatures, U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May issued her order Thursday laying out the new procedures for officials to deal with absentee ballots and ballot applications with signatures that they believe don’t match the signatures for the voter they have on record.

The protocols reflect some of the feedback she received, after handing down a proposed order, from both state and local election officials, as well as from those challenging the signature match procedures in the state.

Under her order, absentee ballots for which officials believe the signature doesn’t match what they have on file will be treated as provisional ballots, and the voter will be notified of opportunities to correct the issue. Likewise, those who apply for absentee ballots with forms with signature match issues will be sent a provisional ballot, with instructions for addressing the signature discrepancy.

Georgia’s practice of throwing out ballots for perceived signature mismatch is one of multiple voting rights issues that recently have attracted scrutiny in the state, where Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, the first black female major party gubernatorial candidate in the country.

Judge May’s order included language suggested by the challengers that attorneys for the affected voters be allowed to act on their behalf in presenting identification to rectify the signature — an adjustment suggested given that many absentee voters have mobility issues. The judge’s order also addressed concerns raised by election officials about the certification process being complicated by the procedures necessary to give voters the chances to fix signature mismatch issues. May said anything not resolved by the certification deadline should not delay the certification “and shall not require recertification of the election results unless those votes would change the outcome of the election.”

The spokesperson for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, when asked earlier Thursday by TPM if there was any plans to appeal Judge Leigh Martin May’s order, said, “To be respectful of the judicial process, we will hold on commenting at length for now aside from what’s in [the public court] filings.”

Read the judge’s order below:

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