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Voting Rights Groups Sue Ohio Over Absentee Ballot Signature-Matching Requirement

Franklin County Board of Elections during the delayed spring election on April 28, 2020.
Ryan Hitchcock
Franklin County Board of Elections during the delayed spring election on April 28, 2020.

The Ohio branches of the ACLU and the League of Women Voters are suing state election officials over how absentee ballot signatures are verified. 

Under current Ohio law, county-level officials determine whether the signature on a ballot or ballot request matches the one held on file. Jen Miller from the League of Women Voters argues that’s too subjective.

“Our process is very unscientific and very prone to error,” Miller says. “And that can mean that, unnecessarily, voters who request absentee ballots or submit their absentee ballots may be denied.”

Miller says there should be multiple signatures from voters on file, specific steps for rejecting them, and a process for notifying voters when there is a problem matching signatures.

"Especially in the application process,” she explains. “On a regular basis we heard from voters that they were denied their absentee ballot request but they didn't know how to fix the problem because the communication was not clear to them."

The Ohio Republican Party was quick to criticize the League of Women Voters' case as well as a separate lawsuit filed by the Ohio Democratic Party that would require county boards of elections to accept ballot requests electronically. In a statement the Republican Party argues the league is trying to “eliminate all signature matching requirements.”

The League of Women Voters' lawsuit actually asks a judge to block those requirements until state officials come up with uniform procedures for checking signatures and notifying voters of a mismatch.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.