Proposed ruling on absentee ballots could impact Georgia governor's race

Proposed ruling on absentee ballots could impact Georgia governor's race

ATLANTA — A federal court judge wants to change the way Georgia counts some absentee ballots and is giving the state until noon Thursday to say why they shouldn’t.

Judge Leigh May is proposing an injunction that would prevent county elections officials from rejecting absentee ballots due to a mismatched signature.

Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot has been digging into the decision. He found that it will not affect a lot of absentee ballots, but it could be used as political ammunition against Secretary of State Brian Kemp's gubernatorial campaign.

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Elliot was at the hearing Tuesday where both sides tried to convince the judge their argument was right.

May listened as all sides argued about the way Georgia counted and could reject some absentee ballots.

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Right now, if you sign an absentee ballot and the signature doesn’t match the one on file with a county, that county can reject it, though it still has to notify you of that rejection.

Sean Young, with the American Civil Liberties Union, told Elliot that method is simply too subjective to be legal.

"Elections officials who are not handwriting experts subjectively determine that their signatures don’t match, even though people’s signatures can change for a variety of innocent reasons,” Young said.

May agreed that there are issues with the way the state and counties reject absentee ballots based on mismatched signatures.

Under her proposed injunction, county officials could not reject the ballot. Instead, it would essentially become a provisional ballot.

Then county officials would be required to notify you of a problem no later than three days after an election and there would be an appeals process in place.

Young said he appreciated that the judge seemed to agree with at least some of their argument.

“We are thankful that the court appeared to appreciate the magnitude of the problem. The court fully understood our claim, and we look forward to her ruling,” Young said.

A representative for Kemp’s campaign told Elliot they are reviewing the ruling.

Neither the secretary of state’s office nor the attorney general’s office said they could comment on the still-active litigation.