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.

Cases: 1118335

Reported Deaths: 17712
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1455892240
Lake724831254
Allen67063882
Hamilton51060487
St. Joseph49820649
Elkhart40268546
Vanderburgh34714497
Tippecanoe30808276
Johnson27696467
Hendricks26313385
Porter25657386
Madison21131455
Clark20238279
Vigo19059309
LaPorte17192261
Howard16770314
Delaware16761303
Monroe16628220
Kosciusko14293167
Hancock13113186
Bartholomew12983190
Warrick12210190
Wayne12090269
Floyd12011226
Grant11998245
Morgan10409192
Boone9869124
Noble9316122
Henry9177169
Marshall9152147
Dearborn8970100
Dubois8835140
Shelby8281130
Cass8167128
Lawrence8057185
DeKalb7817109
Jackson770793
Huntington7661115
Gibson7102118
Montgomery7101123
Harrison6954100
Knox6915116
Steuben669089
Whitley659660
Miami6595113
Putnam645085
Clinton627179
Wabash6221111
Jasper613192
Jefferson5856105
Ripley557294
Adams542281
Daviess5076117
Scott491580
Wells4836105
White478469
Greene4701101
Clay464662
Decatur4611110
Fayette452496
Jennings452067
LaGrange427491
Posey410044
Randolph3944107
Washington390956
Fountain375964
Fulton364874
Spencer362247
Starke355574
Owen353577
Sullivan348555
Orange331372
Jay331050
Rush309533
Carroll296239
Franklin292744
Perry290553
Vermillion283658
Tipton251167
Parke250130
Pike248644
Blackford222144
Pulaski210359
Newton182452
Brown177550
Crawford169129
Benton168417
Martin152120
Switzerland147612
Warren135816
Union122616
Ohio92413
Unassigned0595

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