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League Files Lawsuit to Correct Error-Prone Ballot Verification Process in New York

Read a copy of the complaint here.

NEW YORK CITY & WASHINGTON – Today, the League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters of New York State joined an individual plaintiff in a federal lawsuit to ensure absentee voters have the opportunity to cure their ballots for the remaining 2020 election cycle.  

“For the past two election cycles, New York’s ballot rejection rate has been among the highest in the country,” said Laura Bierman, executive director for the League of Women Voters of New York State. “Voters need the opportunity to ensure their vote is counted and their voice is heard. We want to make sure that when a ballot is challenged, the voter is notified and has sufficient time to correct the error.” 

The complaint asks the state of New York to create a cure method for voters whose ballots are rejected for a signature-related issue, including forgotten signatures or a mismatch signature. Ms. Palmer, the individual plaintiff, is unable to execute a consistent signature due to progressive neurological condition and fears her signature will be rejected since she is unable to vote in person.  

“More voters across the country are taking advantage of vote-by-mail this year, and it is incumbent on us to ensure those votes are not rejected for small errors,” said Dr. Deborah Turner, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “A missing signature or the use of the wrong envelope should not disenfranchise voters. Other states have taken steps to ensure that the  voters are contacted when issues come up with ballots and give voters the opportunity to correct their ballot, submit a new ballot, or cast a vote in-person.”  

“I signed on to this lawsuit to right the wrongs of past disenfranchisement and to vote confidently in the General Election this November,” said Carmelina Palmer, plaintiff in the case. “Providing all absentee voters the opportunity to fix signature verification issues before their ballots are thrown away would give me confidence that when I participate in an election, my vote will be counted. With this lawsuit, my hope is to have that confidence restored.” 

The League is represented by Campaign Legal Center and Selendy & Gay LLP.  

“All eligible voters should be able to have confidence that when they participate in an election, their vote will be counted,” said Danielle Lang, co-director, voting rights and redistricting at CLC. “As more New Yorkers rely on the state’s vote by mail system to exercise their right to vote during the pandemic, more face the risk of disenfranchisement due to their signature or other benign errors. New York’s rejection rate for absentee ballots is alarmingly high. The lack of notice to voters and an opportunity to fix errors must be resolved with urgency with less than 120 days until the General Election.” 

“Decisions around the validity of absentee ballots cannot be left to the whims of each individual county. This is a time when every vote counts more than ever, and New York must take the proper steps to ensure that absentee ballots are properly and uniformly counted,” said Selendy & Gay partner Joshua Margolin. “It is also our hope to ensure that New Yorkers, who are still suffering from the pandemic, are not unintentionally foregoing their right to vote by voting absentee.” 

This case is expected to move forward under an expedited schedule, and plaintiffs hope for resolution before the upcoming municipal elections that were rescheduled for September.

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