Judge Orders Georgia To Stop Rejecting Absentee Ballots Over Signatures

The ruling could save thousands of absentee ballots from being thrown out.

A new ruling from a federal judge could help allay some concerns regarding voter suppression in Georgia's midterm elections. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Leigh May ordered that state election officials must stop rejecting absentee ballots over mismatched signatures before giving voters a chance to fix the issue, as reported by NBC.

Georgia's "signature mismatch" law directed election officials to void any absentee ballots or absentee ballot applications containing signatures that don't appear to match. The practice caused the disruption of thousands of ballots, leading both the ACLU and the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda to file two lawsuits opposing the law. Both organizations challenge the rejection of ballots without providing a process for voters to fix the issue, arguing that doing so is a violation of constitutional rights.

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According to NBC News, May's ruling comes in response to both lawsuits. In addition to instructing county election officials to stop the "signature mismatch" practice for the November midterm election, she also outlined a procedure that would allow voters to resolve alleged signature discrepancies. Representatives from both the Republican and the Democratic Party have until noon Thursday to comment on whether the language in the order is "confusing or will be unworkable" for election officials.

The ruling could have a significant impact on the state's tight gubernatorial race between Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. The competition between both candidates has grown increasingly contentious in recent weeks. In their first debate this week, Abrams accused Kemp of enacting practices meant to suppress votes, particularly among people of color. Kemp alleged that Abrams encouraged undocumented immigrants to vote illegally with her comments at a recent campaign rally.

The race between the two, which polls show remains neck and neck, has become one of the most closely watched in the nation as the midterms approach. Should no candidate earn more than 50 percent of the vote on Election Day, a runoff election will be held on Dec. 4.

Cover image via  Alexandru Nika / Shutterstock.

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