Federal court expands protection on mail-in ballots

Local News

EDINBURG, Texas (KVEO) — The Texas Civil Rights Project has scored a major victory in federal court, which will give voters more protection over mail-in ballots from being rejected based on a signature provision.

A local McAllen woman, Rosalie Weisfield, was among the plaintiffs in the suit after her mail-in ballot was rejected by the City of McAllen during a city election.

An attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project says it was after the 2018 election that they discovered thousands of voters were having their ballots improperly rejected.

Attorney’s with the project then joined a lawsuit against the state, along with other voters who had properly submitted their ballots but were rejected because a panel decided their signature did not match on their envelope and application.

One of the main arguments against the signature provision is that when a ballot is rejected, there is nothing the voter can do. They will receive a notice 10 days after the election, letting them know it was rejected, leaving the voter no option to fix the problem.

“So our lawsuit was essentially asking to stop this signature matching provision from being used or require election officials to have some kind of notice and cure opportunity for voters so that they get proper notice, and they can challenge an improper rejection,” says Ryan Cox, Senior Attorney, Texas Civil Rights Project.

Cox says the court agreed in a 100-page order, that the signature provision was an unconstitutional practice that disenfranchises voters.

The court ruling gives the Texas Secretary of State two options: stop using the signature provision, or counties can submit a plan, giving proper notice before a rejection, and the opportunity for a voter to actually do something about it.

Cox adds with the influx of mail-in ballots expected because of COVID-19, this will protect some first-time voters who might not be aware of the strict rules when it comes to the signature. This could potentially save their ballots from being rejected because of a minor error, inconsistency in a signature.

Attorney’s also say the state has challenged them every step of the way for the past year as they pursued this case, and anticipate the state will seek a stay at the court of appeals.

However attorney’s say they feel there is not justification for a stay, so counties should start preparing to make those court ordered changes.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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