SAN ANTONIO, TX—Today, US District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas must notify voters if their ballot has been marked for rejection due to a signature match issue and give them an opportunity to confirm their identity and save their ballot from rejection. The case, Richardson v. Texas Secretary of State, was brought last year by the League of Women Voters of Texas, Austin Justice Coalition, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, MOVE Texas Civic Fund, and individual plaintiffs Dr. George Richardson and Rosalie Weisfeld.
“Today’s decision is a huge victory for Texas voters, especially those with disabilities and the elderly, who will rely on voting by mail this year because of their higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas. “Now, all Texas voters will be given the opportunity to ensure their ballots will count. A notice and cure process is essential for voters to have confidence when casting their ballots by mail, and we are thrilled this assurance will be in place for the general election.”
When casting ballots by mail, Texas law requires voters to sign their ballot envelope, and that signature is used to verify their identity against a database of voter signatures. This process can cause issues, however, when voters’ names change, they have a disability that inhibits them from writing consistently, or their signature is otherwise different from the one in the database. The court ruled today that the current process election officials use to match signatures violates voter’s constitutional rights and creates an undue burden on voters because it does not provide a method for a voter to fix, or “cure,” their signature issue.
“We celebrate this victory for Texas voters. No one should have to fear that their ballot will be rejected because of a simple signature match error,” said Celina Stewart, senior director of advocacy and litigation for the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Our democracy depends on unabridged access to the ballot, and access depends on voter confidence. When voters have assurance that their ballots will count, they can cast their vote knowing their voice will be heard.”
Judge Garcia’s ruling requires the Texas Secretary of State to bar all local election officials from rejecting a ballot without first notifying the voter and allowing them to cure their ballot. Specifically, voters must be notified via mail within one day of the potential rejection, and the notice must clearly advise the voter on how to cure their ballot.
“I hope Texans can be reassured that their vote by mail won’t be kicked out arbitrarily. My vote counts. Your vote should count. Every vote should count!” said Rosalie Weisfeld, one of the plaintiffs in the case and a past president of the McAllen Edinburgh chapter of LWV. “I was furious when I found out my honest vote was thrown out, but I’m glad now we did something about it.”
The League of Women Voters and partners were represented by Texas Civil Rights Project.
“The judge saw what we saw in the reams and reams of evidence we submitted: that the right to vote was being taken away from a lot of people, and you can’t do that in a democracy,” said Hani Mirza, Senior Attorney in the Voting Rights Program at Texas Civil Rights Project. “This ruling will help protect the rights of mail-in ballot voters in the year where we’re going to have more mail-in ballots than ever.”
The last day to register for the general election in Texas is October 5. The last day to apply to receive a ballot by mail is October 23. Voters can find links to request an absentee ballot, check their registration, and more at VOTE411.org.