COLUMBIA, S.C. — A federal judge in South Carolina has ruled local election boards cannot reject voters' ballots on the basis of mismatched signatures and must review and reprocess previously rejected ballots for the upcoming general election.
The ruling Tuesday comes after a survey of all 46 county election boards found a handful of counties were engaging in signature matching without the knowledge or authority of the state election commission.
The commission has said the practice would be against state law. The lawsuit was filed earlier this month by voter outreach groups including the League of Women Voters.
As of noon Tuesday, 354,000 South Carolinians had voted absentee by mail.
The South Carolina election commission issued the following statement on the ruling:
"Today, the U.S. District Court issued an order barring county election officials from using any signature matching procedures to disqualify any absentee ballots unless those procedures are approved by the Court."
"There is no requirement in South Carolina law for election officials to verify signatures. Prior to the Court’s order, some counties have taken steps to verify a voter’s signature on an absentee ballot against signatures on file at the voter registration office."
"According to the order, any county board seeking to use any signature matching procedure would have to include a method of notifying voter of any discrepancy and providing the voter with an opportunity to contest the determination. Any such procedure would have to be submitted to the Court for prior approval."