GA Election Officials Defend Signature Rejection Policies For Absentee Voters

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 4:  Voters turn out to cast their ballots at polling locations on November 4, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 4: Georgia voter stickers are displayed for voters in the midterm election at Grady High School on November 4, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Georgia Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn... ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 4: Georgia voter stickers are displayed for voters in the midterm election at Grady High School on November 4, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Georgia Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn is running in a tight race against Republican U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images) MORE LESS
October 22, 2018 1:58 p.m.

Georgia state and local election officials defended their practice of rejecting absentee ballots over signature matching issues in Monday court filings, which included the signatures on nine ballots that had been rejected because they were deemed not to match the signature on record.

The court filings came in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU last week seeking new protocols in notifying voters whose absentee ballot and ballot applications may be rejected due to the belief that the signature doesn’t match. It came after news reports that one Georgia county, Gwinnett County — which is named as a defendant in the lawsuit —  had a much higher absentee ballot rejection rate than the rest of the state.

Gwinnett County defended its signature-match procedures in the court filing.  The county said that of the 713 absentee ballot applications that were rejected for the 2018 election, 185 were thrown out for signature match issues. According to an affidavit filed by the county’s director of registration and elections, those whose applications for absentee ballots are denied for signature matching reasons — or for other reasons, like missing information — are sent a letter by the county within three days of the rejection, with a new application and directions for other ways to vote.

Of the 524 ballots that have been rejected in the lead-up to the 2018 elections, nine were rejected due to signature issues, the county said.

“If the voter fails to sign the oath, if any of the information on the outer envelope is missing, or if the signature does not match, the registrar is required by statute to write ‘Rejected’ on the envelope and state the reason,” the county’s response said. “The board is then required to promptly notify the voter of that rejection.”

(There is another lawsuit pending against Gwinnett County for its rejection policies more broadly, including over ballots and applications rejected because of missing or incorrect date of birth.)

If the county’s election staff has concerns about a signature, it turns the ballot over to the registration and elections director, Lynn Ledford. She may convene a group of two senior election officials, and by a majority vote they decide if the ballot should be rejected.

The filing includes the nine signatures of the ballots that were rejected as well as the comparison signatures from the voter registration forms or application forms that the officials deemed not to be a match.

The ACLU has sought a temporary restraining order that would give voters whose ballots are rejected up until three days after election day or after receiving the rejection notice to remedy the issue. There is a hearing in front of a federal judge on the request scheduled for Tuesday.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), who is also running for governor, filed his own response the ACLU’s request that argued that it was up to local officials how absentee ballots were process and that he could not compel them to change their procedures.

Read the filings, including the nine signatures that were rejected, below:

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