South Carolina state authorities have issued a new directive that explicitly bans the usage of signature matching procedures by county election officials who are handling mail-in ballots. Perceived discrepancies between signatures that are submitted with absentee/ mail-in ballots and the signatures that are on file for respective voters can be used as an excuse to disqualify those voters’ ballots. However, the South Carolina state government now insists that lower-level election authorities must not use this practice, and the new state directive could help protect mail-in ballots that might otherwise get thrown out.
As shared by election security and voting rights lawyer Marc Elias on Twitter, the new South Carolina state directive states, in part:
‘Nothing in [state law] allows county boards of voter registration and elections to employ any type of signature matching procedure upon receipt of an absentee ballot… No signature matching procedure may be used to disqualify or reject an absentee ballot that is otherwise properly completed and timely submitted. If any county board of voter registration and elections, or any staff employed or working on behalf of a county board of voter registration and elections, is employing or plans to employ a signature matching procedure, it must stop doing so immediately.’
The new South Carolina state order also states that absentee/ mail-in ballots that may have already been disqualified solely on the basis of a signature discrepancy must “immediately” be re-qualified and included in the official results. Check out the order below:
🚨BREAKING: South Carolina issues new directive banning counties from disqualifying absentee ballots based on signature matching. pic.twitter.com/CE7B8r4O0I
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) October 27, 2020
South Carolina has an ongoing statewide election that could end up quite close and in which this ban on signature matching procedures could, in theory, have an effect: the race between South Carolina’s incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison. In general, Democrats have tended to lean more on mail-in/ absentee voting, while Republicans have tended to lean towards voting in-person. Thus, impediments to mail-in/ absentee voting could disproportionately affect Democratic voters — and a couple of recent surveys had Harrison ahead by just 2 percent. (Other polls have had Graham ahead.) One early October poll from Data for Progress had Harrison leading Graham by just 1 percent. Small shifts could make all the difference in the race.
Elsewhere in the country, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden continues to maintain sizable leads in national-level polling averages and in polls taken in individual swing states that will likely end up a critical addition to the coalition of whichever candidate ends up winning the presidency.