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Counties Must Contact Absentee Voters Before Rejecting Ballot For Signature Issue

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Lauren Chapman
/
IPB News

Indiana counties can no longer reject a voter’s absentee, mail-in ballot because an official says their signature doesn’t match – without giving the voter a chance to fix it.

That’s what a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Indiana law requires county election boards to check a voter’s signature on their mail-in ballot against their ballot application. If those boards – typically made up of the county clerk and a member of each major political party – don’t unanimously agree that the signatures match, the ballot is thrown out.

And counties aren’t required to ever tell the voter their ballot was rejected.

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana 2020 Two-Way. Text "elections" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

A group of voters whose ballots were unfairly rejected in 2018 filed a lawsuit. They argue the law violates their constitutional rights. And a federal judge agrees.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker writes that from now on – including the 2020 general election – counties must contact absentee voters when they think their signatures don’t match and give them a chance to prove they are properly voting.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.