State Board of Elections denies NC GOP signature match request for mail-in ballots
The NC Board of Elections, in a 3-2 vote on the party line, denied state Republicans’ request for signature verification on mail-in ballots.
Republicans wanted local election officials to be able to compare voter signatures on their registration cards with signatures on mail-in ballot applications and on returned ballots.
Instead, the board’s Democratic majority approved a declaratory ruling stating otherwise. They ruled that county election officials did not have the legal authority to verify signatures to determine whether voters should receive mail-in ballots and whether votes should be counted.
Stella Anderson, a Democratic board member, said allowing signature matching imposes a new legal requirement on voters. “We can’t do that,” she said.
She suggested that proponents of signature matching ask the legislature to change the law.
Tommy Tucker, a Republican board member and former state senator, said he would do just that. “I will make it my sole purpose in life” to codify signature verification into state law, he said. He argued that election officials should be allowed to check signatures on ballots that are illegible.
Tucker said the state board’s decision will no longer matter because of a U.S. Supreme Court case that he says will go with Republicans.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a North Carolina case that would allow legislatures to make rules for federal elections that state courts could not review. North Carolina Republicans base their argument on the “independent state legislature doctrine,” which Stateline called “a fringe conservative legal theory.” Stateline is an online publication of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
“The Supreme Court will make a decision at the end of the year where we don’t have a say,” Tucker said, “that it will be by the Constitution, as I said, the hours, the manners and the places of elections are determined by the state legislatures, not the state council, not the Supreme Court, not an illegitimate judge.
The state’s Republican Party, a GOP candidate in the county election, and a Republican member of a county board of elections wanted the state board of elections to rescind a 2020 instruction from the county’s chief election administrator. state that local councils should not try to verify signatures on absentee ballot applications.
In their request to the election committee to allow verification of signatures, Republican attorneys said it was part of the job of local election officials.
Republican Congresswoman Stacy Eggers IV said the intent was to allow election officials to verify signatures they question, not all signatures.
“Having a signature on the registration card is an easy and accessible tool that counties have,” he said. “Having this for their added consideration just builds trust in the system.”
Board Chairman Damon Circosta, a Democrat, said he was happy with the existing safeguards. “We now have an extraordinarily secure mail-in voting process,” he said. “To do so would introduce a level of uncertainty in which some voters could be treated differently from other voters depending on how they vote.”
Voters who wish to vote by mail must sign their application and provide the last four digits of their Social Security number or driver’s license number, as well as their date of birth. Next of kin and guardians can request absentee ballots for voters. Next of kin and guardians making these requests do not need to be registered voters.
Voters sign their returned ballots, and these ballots must also bear the signature of two witnesses or a notary public.
twenty-seven states require matching signatures on mail-in ballots, but none of those states require the signature of a witness or notary, Policy Watch reported.
The state Board of Elections received more than 7,000 comments on the Republican proposal, with most asking the board to reject the request. Some called it an attempt to suppress voters, while others said it would hurt older or disabled voters, and those whose signatures have changed due to illness.
Commentators who supported the request said verification of signatures was necessary to avoid the dilution of legitimate votes.
Studies of signature matching in other states found that some counties reserved significantly larger proportions of return ballots than other counties. In addition, younger voters and voters of color were more likely to have their mail-in ballots rejectedand were less likely to have issues resolved before vote count deadlines, Policy Watch reported.
In their written request for permission to match the signatures, the Republican attorneys suggested they would go to court if the Elections Commission rejects it.
In a statement Thursday, North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley said county election boards are required to validate the identity of absentee voters and that the state board’s decision is against the law. of State.
“”We are stunned that Democrats in the State Board of Elections are blocking the use of signature verification on mail-in ballots,” he wrote. “The North Carolina Republican Party will explore all options at our disposal to reinstate voter signature verification as an essential part of our county councils’ efforts to protect the integrity of elections in North Carolina.”
Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said in a statement that the electoral board was right to deny “a reckless request.”
“Our state’s absentee voting process is secure and proven,” Phillips wrote.
“But now the Republican Party of North Carolina wants to change that by placing an unfair burden on the growing number of North Carolinians who choose to vote by mail,” Phillips continued. “This unnecessary ‘signature matching’ process would give county election commissions the ability to look at someone’s signature on their voter registration form – possibly completed decades before – and compare it to the current signature of the voter on their postal ballot. That would leave it to human error and unequal standards to decide which ballots should count.
“The North Carolina Republican Party’s push to impose a deeply flawed ‘signature matching’ process would pressure North Carolina voters and election administrators, while doing nothing to strengthen our electoral system. The State Board of Elections made the right appeal to voters by denying that request.