Voters Need Notification and the Opportunity to Cure Rejected Vote-by-mail Ballots
BISMARCK—Today, the League of Women Voters of North Dakota filed a lawsuit asking the United States District Court of North Dakota to provide relief for voters from the state’s burdensome signature match policy. Currently, North Dakota voters are not notified when their ballot is rejected due to a technical error such as signature mismatch, and there is no method for them to provide verification or cure the mistake to remedy their rejected ballots.
“North Dakota’s signature match system is prone to errors, which means too many ballots are incorrectly rejected,” said Jan Lynch, President of the League of Women Voters of North Dakota. “Without clear notification and a way for voters to cure their ballots, too many voters are disenfranchised by this process. Most often, these are people who already struggle with ballot access: those with disabilities, the elderly, young people, and those who learned to write in a first language that is not English.”
Under the threat of a viral pandemic, the number of votes cast by mail is expected to surge—especially in the state’s June primary election, when vote-by-mail is voters’ only option. The presence of COVID-19 raises the importance of having a smooth vote-by-mail system in which voters can have confidence that when they follow the rules and cast a valid ballot, their vote will be counted.
“Even before the coronavirus pandemic, voters around the country have been increasing their reliance on vote-by-mail systems,” said Chris Carson, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Now the threat of COVID-19 makes the urgent need for clear, fair vote-by-mail standards like signature verification even more apparent. North Dakota voters must have assurance that their votes will count in this crucial election year.”
The League of Women Voters is joined in this case by an individual Grand Forks resident, as well as Self Advocacy Solutions, a nonprofit that works statewide to promote civil rights and equal access for people with disabilities. The League is represented by the Campaign Legal Center.
“All eligible voters should be able to have confidence that when they participate in an election, their vote will be counted,” said Paul Smith, vice president at CLC. “Signature comparison is not a science. Even if it was, election officials are not trained handwriting experts. The current system produces many incorrect mismatches which result in eligible voters having their ballot thrown away. These errors – which disproportionately affect those with disabilities, the elderly and non-native English speakers – must be fixed with urgency during this critical election year.”
Plaintiffs are hopeful the result of this case will mean North Dakota voters have a statewide, uniform notice and cure process to preserve their right to vote. A decision is expected sometime in May.
Case documents for this filing and a plaintiff story can be found here.
Contact: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]
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