A recent ruling in Georgia should send a clear message to Arizona that its signature matching policies are unconstitutional
PHOENIX - Mail-in ballots in Arizona now account for nearly three-quarters of the total ballots cast. But not all those ballots will be counted. In 2016, 2,657 of those ballots were rejected because election officials were not “satisfied” that the signature on the ballot matched the voter’s registration signature. Many of those voters were not even told that their vote was rejected until after Election Day, if at all.
Counties must ensure that all mail-in voters are given notice and an opportunity to confirm their signature before their ballot is rejected. But all counties except Pima simply reject ballots with perceived mismatches that they receive on or near Election Day, in violation of voters’ constitutional rights to due process.
Yesterday, a federal court in Georgia held unconstitutional similar signature matching practices. The court ordered election officials to provide all absentee voters with due process before rejecting their ballot. The decision should send a clear message to Arizona that its policies fall short of adequately protecting Arizonan voters.
On October 22, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), ACLU, and ACLU of Arizona sent a letter on behalf of a coalition of Arizona groups: League of United Latin American Citizens-Arizona, Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation, League of Women Voters-Arizona, and All Voting is Local-Arizona. Today, the groups sent a follow-up letter advising Arizona officials of yesterday’s Georgia ruling and demanding a solution.
“Given the popularity of voting by mail in Arizona, processing mail-in ballots properly is critical,” said Danielle Lang, senior legal counsel at CLC. “Votes must not be rejected without due process. Secretary Reagan should issue immediate guidance to county recorders statewide requiring that all voters with ballots flagged for ‘mismatched’ signatures receive notice and an opportunity to confirm their signature before having their ballots rejected.”
“Arizona voters deserve to know with certainty their votes will be counted when they submit their mail-in ballot,” said Darrell Hill, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Arizona. “The Secretary of State and county recorders should use the processes already in place, as the Pima County Recorder currently does, to notify voters if their ballot envelope signature does not appear to match the signature on file, and give these voters an opportunity to confirm their signature instead of rejecting their ballot.”
"Arizona should protect voters, not undermine them. Instead, signature-matching is used as another way to make voting more difficult. County recorders have the authority to let voters resolve signature issues, and are simply refusing to do so," said Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Voting Right Project.
"The Constitution requires Arizona's elections officials to afford the same opportunities to all eligible voters. Doing so here would not entail significant administrative burdens. Rather, election officials would simply need to refine their existing practices, which already permit certain voters to cure issues with their early ballot signatures,” said Spencer Scharff, a Phoenix lawyer advising the coalition.