Pa. Mail Ballots Can't Be Discarded Over Signature
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — With concerns rising in Pennsylvania that tens of thousands of mail-in ballots will be discarded in the presidential election over technicalities, officials in the presidential battleground told counties they aren’t allowed to reject a ballot solely because an election official believes a signature doesn’t match the one in the voter’s file.
The new guidance from Pennsylvania’s Department of State — that state law does not allow counties to set aside mail-in ballots based on their signature analysis — prompted the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh to drop a lawsuit in federal court Monday.
The groups had cited the lack of guidance on the subject and sought to ensure that voters have the chance to fix ballots that are flagged for a perceived signature mismatch.
“As a result of this case, Pennsylvania voters can cast their vote without fear that their ballot could be rejected solely because an election official — who isn’t trained in handwriting analysis — thinks their signatures don’t match,” said Mark Gaber, a Campaign Legal Center lawyer who represented the groups in court.
In Pennsylvania’s June 2 primary election alone, when 1.5 million voted by mail, more than 26,000 ballots were rejected, including for “signature-related errors or matters of penmanship,” the lawsuit had said.
One county election director, L. Edward Allison Jr. of Lawrence County, said that the state’s guidance is in line with his county’s practices and that he doubts it will be controversial with counties. One way of fixing it is to contact voters to come in to verify their signature, he said.
“We recognize the fact that, as people age, their signature changes, I know mine has,” Allison said in an interview. “Different medical conditions, strokes, all that kind of stuff enters into it.”
To a great extent, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and the Legislature’s Republican majorities are clashing over how to prevent vast numbers of ballots from being discarded because of technicalities and how to head off the specter of a presidential election result hanging in limbo on a drawn-out vote count and legal fight in Pennsylvania.