Federal lawsuit challenges Indiana's voter signature law

A government watchdog group is challenging the constitutionality of an Indiana law that allows election officials to throw out voters' absentee ballots if they think the signature on the envelope doesn't match other signatures on file.

Posted: May 17, 2019 9:18 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A government watchdog group is challenging the constitutionality of an Indiana law that allows election officials to throw out voters' absentee ballots if they think the signature on the envelope doesn't match other signatures on file.

The federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Indianapolis by Common Cause Indiana contends that the practice of discarding absentee ballots allowed under the law resulted in the rejection of "several hundred and possibly more than a thousand mail-in absentee ballots" submitted in 2018.

The complaint seeks an injunction to prevent enforcement of the law. It alleges that because Indiana's law does not require election officials to notify voters that their ballots were discarded those voters have no way of knowing their vote wasn't counted and no way to challenge the decision, The Indianapolis Star reported .

The suit emphasizes that Indiana lacks any rules or standards to determine whether a signature is genuine and that county election officials receive no training in handwriting analysis.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Common Cause and four St. Joseph County voters whose ballots were not counted because of questions about their signature on the envelope containing their absentee ballot. Three of those voters are elderly and one of them is a 69-year-old woman with Parkinson's disease whose "signature becomes increasingly illegible as the day goes on, although her signature has never been questioned by her bank or anyone else," the suit states.

If that woman had known election officials were questioning her signature, she would have validated it, the suit says.

She and the lawsuit's other voters who sued only learned that their ballots were rejected when they were contacted by Common Cause, which had sought copies of ballot envelopes containing ballots that were rejected based on signature mismatches.

The lawsuit says that Indiana's law can be especially problematic for people who are elderly and disabled or have limited English language skills because signature variations are more likely for those individuals.

The suit names as defendants Secretary of State Connie Lawson, the St. Joseph County Election Board and the three members of the board as defendants.

Lawson's spokeswoman says the Secretary of State's office does not comment on pending litigation.

St. Joseph County Clerk Rita Glenn, a member of the election board, said the board would not comment because it had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn said in an emailed statement that Indiana's signature review practice has stripped too many Hoosiers of their voice in government.

"This system is deeply flawed and we trust the court will side with the voters who were wrongly and unknowingly disenfranchised and end this unconstitutional and undemocratic system once and for all," Flynn said.

Common Cause and its attorney, William Groth, sought records about signature mismatches from six Indiana counties prior to filing the lawsuit.

Such lawsuits have been successful in other states, Groth said. In neighboring Illinois, for example, the suit was resolved when lawmakers required notice to voters whose signatures were being questioned.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 157713

Reported Deaths: 4092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion25392789
Lake13805355
St. Joseph9277163
Elkhart8890135
Allen8278230
Hamilton6215113
Vanderburgh588261
Tippecanoe375915
Hendricks3302133
Monroe326638
Porter322049
Johnson3151129
Delaware297074
Clark296762
Vigo264840
Madison240595
LaPorte226658
Cass225522
Warrick195265
Kosciusko187826
Floyd180167
Howard164066
Bartholomew143358
Marshall140026
Dubois139626
Wayne132130
Henry128430
Grant127839
Boone124550
Hancock119944
Noble117434
Jackson114416
Dearborn98028
Morgan94840
Lawrence90837
Daviess89334
Gibson88612
Clinton86716
Shelby83531
LaGrange81015
Knox77410
Harrison77324
Putnam73716
Posey7236
DeKalb72011
Fayette69018
Steuben6338
Miami6305
Jasper6175
White59215
Montgomery59022
Greene55337
Scott52413
Decatur50739
Adams5027
Whitley4636
Clay4537
Ripley4538
Sullivan44414
Wells43511
Wabash4219
Starke4157
Orange40925
Huntington4015
Spencer3956
Washington3783
Franklin37625
Jennings36913
Fulton3653
Randolph3659
Jefferson3435
Pike33518
Carroll32913
Perry32614
Jay3116
Fountain3073
Tipton27823
Vermillion2531
Parke2374
Newton23011
Blackford2193
Rush2184
Owen2071
Martin2000
Crawford1591
Pulaski1562
Brown1433
Ohio1327
Benton1120
Union1110
Switzerland960
Warren841
Unassigned0234

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