A federal judge signaled on Wednesday that Georgia election officials would no longer be allowed to reject absentee ballots because they believe the signature on the ballot does not match the voter’s signature on public records. Instead, according to the judge’s proposed order, the ballot would be processed as a provisional ballot, and election officials would be required to give the voter notice of the perceived discrepancy, and give the voter — no later than three days before election day — the opportunity to address it.
Likewise, the judge proposed that that applications for absentee ballots, where the election officials believe the signature does not match their records, no longer be rejected, and instead, that voters be provided with a provisional ballots. Those voters too will be be given the opportunity to rectify the signature discrepancy, according to the judge’s order.
U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May gave the parties in the case until noon Thursday to give her feedback on the proposed order.
“The Court is specifically interested in comments as to whether any of the below language is confusing or will be unworkable for the implementing officials,” she said.
The order came after a hearing she held Tuesday in the case brought by the ACLU against Georgia’s signature match absentee voting practices. The hearing also concerned a separate lawsuit challenging more broadly the rejection protocols for absentee ballots, but Wednesday’s order addressed only the signature mismatch aspect of that case.
The ACLU’s lawsuit and the other lawsuit came after reports that Gwinnett County, Georgia’s second most-populous county, was rejecting absentee ballot and ballot applications at a much higher rate than the rest of the state. Gwinnett County and other county elections offices were named as defendants in the lawsuit, as was Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), who is also running for governor.
The secretary of state’s office has said that it’s up to local officials how they want to handle rejection protocols for absentee ballot and ballot applications. Gwinnett County, in court filings, said that the 524 absentee ballots that have been rejected as of October 18, nine so far were tossed because of a signature discrepancy. Absentee voting had started only three days prior. The filing said 185 ballot applications had been thrown out due to signature mismatch, out 713 applications rejected in total.
Read the order here: