Ballot cannot be thrown out on voter signature, court says


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania gave a unanimous ruling Friday on a major concern caused by an avalanche of postal ballots preventing voters from rejecting signatures on voters’ registration forms.

Two Republican justices joined five Democratic justices in the judgment.

The verdict was the victory of Kathy Bokover, the state’s top election official, a Democrat who asked the court to withdraw her in a legal dispute with President Donald Trump’s campaign and Republican lawmakers.

“County boards of elections are prohibited as a result of rejection of absent or mailed-in ballots based on signature comparisons made by county election officials or staff, or by third party challenges based on signature analysis and comparisons. , “Justice wrote.

Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are locked in a battle to win Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes. With Democrats voting by mail at Republicans at a rate of about 3 to 1, the prospect of ineligible ballots becomes a major threat to Biden’s candidacy.

Bokovar, in his court filing, stated that any such denial is “in grave danger of disintegration on an arbitrary and purely subjective basis”, and that his signature before a voter is disqualified from his ballot Without giving any opportunity to verify.

Republican lawmakers and the Trump campaign had argued that the law is clear that election officials should compare mail-in ballot information, including voter’s signatures, on file to determine a person’s eligibility to vote .

But justices disagreed, as did a federal judge in a separate case previously brought by Trump’s campaign. Both said that the law on mail-in ballots only makes it clear that the voter’s signature is required in the ballot envelope, but not the matching signature.

There is no law in Pennsylvania that voters have the opportunity to fix an irregularity with their ballot before being disqualified, and discussion of it in the Legislature in recent weeks sparked a widespread partisan fight during the presidential election.

In a statement, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Democrat Josh Shapiro, called the decision a “victory for voters.”

The identity of voters who use mail-in ballots is verified in their initial application, often using a driving license number, he said.

“Pennsylvania’s voter ID system is safe and secure,” he said. “We are protecting every eligible vote and making sure that each is counted.”

C-Majority Leader Jake Korman, R-Center, accused Bokovar of loosening election security provisions in state law, saying lawmakers never thought it was “due to the signatures required on mail-in ballots being redundant”. Can be interpreted to represent.

“People who vote in person are placed at a higher level than those who mail in their ballots,” he said in a statement.

He also said that it is “surprising” that the courts supported the interpretation that matched signatures are required to vote in person, “but mail-in voting is officially a free-for-all.”

The decision came amid mail-in voting and growing concerns that tens of mailed ballots would be dropped due to a variety of technicalities in the presidential election.

Some voters say that it is awkward to sign a digital screen when obtaining or renewing their driver’s license and results in a signature that does not resemble them on paper.

County election officials say people’s signatures change over time, with age or medical conditions.

They also question whether a voter’s signature is valid, historically rare, and because of that, so far, it has never happened before a debate about it, under a one-year-old law with coronovirus concerns Increasing interest in voting by mail – expanded it.

In the November 3 presidential election, more than 2.9 million voters in Pennsylvania have requested mail-in ballots, more than 10 times the number in the 2016 presidential elections, and many of those who have never voted by mail before is.

According to state election officials, about half of the elections have returned to offices.

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Follow Mark Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter.

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AP’s Advanced Voting Guide brings you the facts about early voting, by mail or absent from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/

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