The League of Women Voters of New York State and the League of Women Voters of the United States joined a federal lawsuit in order to limit the number of absentee ballot rejections.
According to the complaint, New York rejected 14 percent of absentee ballots in 2018 and for the past two election cycles. The state's ballot rejection rate has been among the highest in the country.
"Voters need the opportunity to ensure their vote is counted and their voice is heard," Laura Bierman, executive director for the League of Women Voters of New York State, said. "We want to make sure that when a ballot is challenged, the voter is notified and has sufficient time to correct the error."
Ballots are often rejected if there are forgotten or mismatched signatures. The main plaintiff in the lawsuit, Carmelina Palmer, a New York resident, is living through a neurological condition that causes hand tremors, and writes that she is worried her ballot will be thrown out.
"When I am shaking, my handwriting is hardly recognizable compared with my normal state," Palmer explained. "Creating legible words while my hand is uncontrollably moving is practically impossible. In regards to voting, this means that I am at risk of having my ballot rejected due to a signature mismatch. Signature matching is not a science, and election officials are not trained handwriting experts. How can they be expected to compare discrepancies in the signature I give on my absentee ballot with the one on the voter registration file?"
The lawsuit asks that the state provide a way for voters who have their ballots rejected to have enough time to fix a signature error.
More voters across the country are taking advantage of vote-by-mail this year, and it is incumbent on us to ensure those votes are not rejected for small errors,” said Dr. Deborah Turner, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “A missing signature or the use of the wrong envelope should not disenfranchise voters."
This lawsuit is expected to be acted on in September.