Judge Stops GOP Mail-In Voter Suppression Attempt Ahead Of Midterms

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A North Carolina judge has rejected a push from GOP interests including the state Republican Party for adding new hurdles to mail-in voting in the state.

As summarized by the voting rights organization Democracy Docket, the Republicans wanted authorities “to give county boards of election the discretion to accept or reject mail-in ballots based on whether a voter’s signature on their mail-in ballot matches the signature on their voter registration.” Presumably, local officials implementing signature-matching procedures would be inherent in them suddenly being granted the opportunity to do so. Even if not compelled by those higher up in government, Republicans running local elections likely wouldn’t miss the opportunity. Matching the signatures submitted with mail-in ballots to signatures already on file for individual voters — and potentially rejecting their ballots based on how closely those signatures match — is an imprecise process that can disproportionately impact marginalized voters, like elderly and disabled residents seeking to cast a ballot. There is also a natural progression in the appearance of any given individual’s signature, putting even more people at risk.

There is no real-world problem with election integrity warranting the signature-matching change sought by Republicans. When implementing new restrictions around elections elsewhere, it has sometimes meant dramatic upticks in the rates of local authorities rejecting mail-in ballots. In Texas, when voters became required to submit either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number if voting by absentee ballot, many voters apparently made mistakes amid waves of new rules, with the rejection rate for mail-in ballots during Texas primaries this year reaching 12 percent — far above previous rates. “One of SB 1’s requirements is that voters write down either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number—whichever one they used when they registered to vote. Many people forgot which number they used, so their ballot was rejected,” a Texas Monthly reporter summarized in an interview with the state’s top elections official.

That official pointed to lower rejection rates in subsequent runoffs. As for North Carolina, Republicans alleged that the state board of elections didn’t have the appropriate authority to decide against allowing signature-matching procedures for mail-in ballots — which mirrors the controversial arguments gaining ground on the Right that state legislators have nearly sole authority in handling the conducting of federal elections in their states. In denying the Republican push towards signature-matching, the North Carolina court pointed to the legislature itself, getting around the authority arguments (conjecturally speaking): “The General Assembly has provided the mechanisms it deemed reasonably necessary to determine the authenticity of signatures on absentee ballots and protect the security and authenticity of the ballot. It did not provide the mechanisms requested by Petitioner and this Court is not authorized to add to those legislatively provided mechanisms.”