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Federal Judge Rules South Carolina Must Not Reject Ballots for Signature Issues

Injunction in LWV of South Carolina v. Andino prohibits signature match in November election 

CHARLESTON, SC—Today, a federal judge ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, The Family Unit, Inc., and an individual voter in League of Women Voters of South Carolina v. Andino, to prohibit absentee and mail-in ballots from being rejected due to a signature mismatch. The ruling also requires that all ballots previously rejected for signature-related issues be reviewed and re-processed by the state. 

“As a result of today's ruling, voters in this critical election now do not have to worry that their vote may be disqualified by a claimed mismatch of signatures,” said Christe McCoy-Lawrence, co-president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina. “This decision is a significant win for voter confidence in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our elections with rule changes, delays, and massive surges in mail voting. This ruling erases the uncertainty voters might feel about whether their absentee ballot signature may not exactly match a previous one on record.”

Previously, voters who submitted a ballot with a mismatched signature were not notified of the issue nor given an opportunity to fix it before their ballot was tossed out. Due to COVID-19, all South Carolina voters are eligible to vote by absentee ballot under the State of Emergency reason. With the number of absentee ballots expected to be several times higher in 2020 as a result, the rate of ballot rejection was predicted to be much higher without today’s remedy. 

"The League celebrates today’s ruling expanding reasonable absentee ballot procedures to another state,” said Dr. Deborah Ann Turner, board president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “This ruling ensures that every vote cast has the best opportunity to be counted. With more votes than ever set to be cast by mail this year, fair absentee ballot processes will protect hundreds of thousands of voters from disenfranchisement.” 

As a result of the lawsuit, the state also issued an October 26 directive prohibiting election officials from rejecting absentee ballots for signature match issues. 

“The court has ensured that all voters will have a voice in our democracy,” said Dr. Brenda Williams, Executive Director of The Family Unit.  “Just because there will be a record number of absentee voters, that does not mean we need to have a record number of disenfranchised voters.”  

Plaintiffs are represented by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, ACLU of South Carolina, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. 

“We are pleased with today’s decision and the effective and sensible relief ordered by the court,” said John Powers, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It is common sense that South Carolina counties should not be employing signature matching procedures for absentee ballots that are contrary to South Carolina law and violate the U.S. Constitution. Election officials are not experts at reviewing signatures.” 

South Carolina absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3 to be counted.

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PRESS CONTACT: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]