Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC originally formed to support former President Barack Obama, filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District Court this week alleging that Michigan’s signature matching law for absentee ballots is unconstitutional and results in hundreds of eligible votes thrown-out every year.
Michigan law requires clerks to reject applications if the signature on the ballot doesn’t match the signature on the state’s qualified voter list.
The lawsuit says the process for deciding if signatures match is "arbitrary and standardless,” and argues that signatures change over time due to age, illness and other reasons.
The election officials comparing signatures have “unfettered discretion,” the lawsuit says, and aren’t required to be trained in handwriting or signature analysis.
The lawsuit cites a National Center for Biotechnology Information study that found that signature verification by people without proper training “results in a high rate of error” and a tendency to over-reject legitimate signatures, which disproportionately impact the votes of minorities who have no way to challenge or correct tossed votes.
Michigan law doesn’t require election officials to notify voters of rejected ballots.
“In fact, no one really knows how Michigan election officials decide whether a signature on an absentee ballot or ballot application is sufficiently similar to the previously designated signature to withstand scrutiny,” the lawsuit states.
Voters who send in mismatched signatures must “cure” their vote by 8 p.m. on Election Day, according to the complaint, which names Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, in her official capacity, as the defendant.
Michiganders amended the state constitution in 2018, expanding absentee voter access from specific groups to all voters, which the complaint said will augment absentee voting and exacerbate the issue of accurately identifying eligible signatures.
“In other words, the signature matching regime will not only deny Michiganders the right to vote, but it will also undermine the election reforms approved by voters specifically to expand access to the franchise,” the complaint read.
The lawsuit says courts across the country have amended similar rules in Florida, Georgia, Iowa and New Hampshire.
The SOS did not respond to request for comment.
The Democratic National Committee in February filed a similar lawsuit in Florida.