California elections officials must notify voters before rejecting their mail-in ballots over concerns that the signature is not authentic, a San Francisco judge ruled this week.
Current California election law allows officials to toss out vote-by-mail ballots if they suspect the signature on the envelope does not match the signature on file for the voter, without giving the voter a chance to respond. In November, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Northern California and law firm Cooley LLP sued Secretary of State Alex Padilla, arguing the practice is unconstitutional.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer Jr. agreed and ruled Monday that rejecting ballots without warning violates due process. He ruled that voters must be given a chance to explain and correct any discrepancies so their ballot might be still be counted.
I’ve written before about the growing notion that handwritten signatures are problematic as a means of authenticating voters, but at least in California voters will get the chance to channel their inner second grader and try their hand again. I can’t imagine that the state will appeal but it’s still worth watching; if the ruling stands it will be yet another reason to encourage voters to complete and return their vote-by-mail ballots well before the deadline – just in case a better signature is required.