U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Judge: Georgia, Don't Toss Absentee Ballots

"Mismatched signatures" may take over "hanging chads" for the most contested ballots in recent American politics.

While 2000 was the year of the hanging chad, 2018 is turning into the year of mismatched signatures. In Georgia, a judge has issued a temporary restraining order against officials who have been rejecting absentee ballots based on discrepancies in signatures.

The hot-button issue is raging among activists who claim the Secretary of State is manipulating the ballot count. That's a problem for Secretary Brian Kemp because he is also running for governor.

Hot-Button Ballots

Georgia law allows election officials to reject absentee ballots if they detect a signature mismatch in a voter's paperwork. According to reports, officials have excluded 157 absentee ballots because of signature discrepancies.

Responding to civil complaints, Judge Leigh Martin May blocked the practice. Instead, she proposed that officials mark suspect ballots and notify voters to resolve issues within three days after election day.

"Permitting an absentee voter to resolve an alleged signature discrepancy ... has the very tangible benefit of avoiding disenfranchisement," she said.

The latest complaints came in the last days before the election, but similar issues have dogged the state for months. In August, several groups rallied in a failed attempt to close nine polling sites in predominately black areas.

Voting Machines

Meanwhile, the Georgia NAACP alleges that some voting machines have registered votes for the Republican gubernatorial candidate that were actually cast for Democrat Stacey Abrams.

"We've experienced this before," said Phyllis Blake, president of the statewide organization. "They ended up taking these old dilapidated machines out of service -- the ones giving the problems."

Blake said the voting machines should have been replaced about 10 years ago. For now, they just want to replace the governor.

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