HARRISBURG (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) – For the 2020 General Election, and future elections, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar issued a guidance stating that Pennsylvania county boards of election can no longer reject a ballot based solely on an election official’s belief that the signature does not match the one on the voter’s file.
“The League of Women Voters is pleased with the outcome of our case. Now Pennsylvania voters can cast their ballots confidently, knowing they won’t be rejected because of a signature match issue,” said Terrie Griffin, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “The case for voters is strong, and we are cheered that this move represents true progress in voting rights for Pennsylvanians.”
“No voter should have to worry that their ballot won’t be counted because of a signature issue—and no prospective voter should be discouraged from voting for the same reason,” said Celina Stewart, senior director of advocacy and litigation at the League of Women Voters of the United States. “The League will always fight to make sure voters’ needs are put first, and Secretary Boockvar’s guidance does just that.”
The issued guidance is a response to a lawsuit brought on by the League of Women Votes of Pennsylvania, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, and two individual plaintiffs challenging Pennsylvania’s election procedures.
Boockvar’s guidance establishes a uniform process across the state for counting mail-in ballots.
In 2019, Pennsylvania joined more than 30 other states in allowing no-excuse absentee voting with the passing of Act 77. Due to Act 77, along with COVID-19, 1.5 million voters sent in ballots by mail during the June 2020 presidential primary.
“We at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh are encouraged by the outcome, which will better protect our members, clients and all Pennsylvania voters' ability to vote by mail without unjustifiable interference by election officials,” said Esther Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. “This is a significant step in what the Urban League considers to be the right direction on our journey toward removing all barriers to civil rights and economic parity.”
With the increase of absentee voting comes the risk of inconsistent application of signature-verification policies. With this new guidance, voters are assured their votes will not be rejected due to a perceived signature mismatch.
“As a result of this case, Pennsylvania voters can cast their vote without fear that their ballot could be rejected solely because an election official – who isn’t trained in handwriting analysis – thinks their signatures don’t match. Voting should not be a penmanship test,” said Mark Gaber, director, trial litigation at Campaign Legal Center (CLC).