U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled that county election offices should notify voters if their signature on a vote-by-mail ballot and their voter registration forms don’t match. Voters would then be given a chance to fix the problem by 5 p.m. the day before the election.
The Florida Democratic Party sued the state because currently voters who don’t sign their vote-by-mail ballot are given a chance to fix it. But voters whose signatures don’t match aren’t told about the problem until after the election is over and their ballot is discarded.
Walker said that makes the law unconstitutional.
“It is illogical, irrational, and patently bizarre for the state of Florida to withhold the opportunity to cure from mismatched-signature voters while providing that same opportunity to no-signature voters,” Walker wrote. “And in doing so, the state of Florida has categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters for no reason other than they have poor handwriting or their handwriting has changed over time.”
Meredith Beatrice, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, said state officials were reviewing the decision.
It is not clear exactly how many voters would be affected by the decision. But more than 23,000 vote-by-mail ballots were rejected by Florida election officials during the 2012 presidential election where President Barack Obama carried the state by slightly more than 74,000 votes.