Election officials in Georgia have until noon Thursday to respond to a proposed order that would force them to stop rejecting absentee ballots when a voter’s signature doesn’t seem to exactly match records, CNN reports.
The “signature mismatch” policy affects minorities at a higher rate than the rest of the population, research has shown.
Under the proposed court order, which U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May issued on Wednesday afternoon, Gwinnett County would have to mark absentee ballots with a signature mismatch as provisional rather than rejecting them outright, and they would have to notify the voter before rejecting the application.
“This ruling protects the people of Georgia from those who seek to undermine their right to vote,” Sophia Lakin, of the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNN. “It’s a huge victory, especially with the midterms just days away.”
Gwinnett County is reviewing the order and will file comments with the court on Thursday, spokesperson Joe Sorenson told CNN.
Officials in Gwinnett County, a suburb of Atlanta, have rejected over 600 absentee ballots for a variety of reasons that include signature mismatch. Georgia officials have rejected 157 absentee ballots due to an alleged signature mismatch across the state, according to CNN.
Absentee ballots cast by Asian Americans and African Americans were rejected more often than those cast by whites, according to research by University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who oversees elections in the state and is also the Republican candidate for governor, declined to comment to CNN through both his campaign and his office. The Georgia Attorney General’s Office also declined comment.
Kemp has come under fire for refusing to recuse himself from overseeing a potential recount in the November 6 contest and for purging 53,000 voters from Georgia rolls ahead of the election — 70 percent of them African American — because there was not an “exact match” between their voter registration and their information in other state and federal databases. Litigation over that issue is ongoing.
A spokesperson for Kemp’s Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, said there is “still more work to be done” on voting in Georgia.
“Every eligible voter must be allowed to make their voice heard in our democracy, and we will continue to fight to ensure that each and every ballot cast by eligible Georgia voters will be counted,” Abigail Collazo told CNN in a statement.