Politics

Ga. Election Officials Ask Judge To Suspend Absentee Ballot Order Over Signature Mismatches

Secretary of State Brian Kemp is Georgia's top election official and is also running to be the state’s next governor.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp is Georgia's top election official and is also running to be the state’s next governor.
Credit John Amis / Associated Press

Lawyers for Secretary of State Brian Kemp are fighting a federal judge’s order to stop rejecting absentee ballots and applications that have questionable signatures.

The Secretary of State’s office filed an emergency motion Thursday evening saying it wants U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May to suspend the order while it appeals to a higher court, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

May initially ordered absentee ballots with signatures that don’t match what’s on file to be accepted as provisional ballots and to give voters a chance to resolve signature issues.

On Friday morning, May ordered that plaintiffs must file a response to the emergency motion by noon Monday.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp is Georgia’s top election official and is also running for governor of Georgia. University of California-Irvine law professor and election law expert Rick Hasen said last-minute changes could be problematic for the state.

“When you change the rules before the election, that raises dangerous confusion, and the Supreme Court has said that’s potentially a problem,” Hasen said. “On the other hand, plaintiffs are arguing that voters might be disenfranchised by an election official who is trying to judge handwriting and make sure that handwriting matches.”

Hasen said he expects the judge will refuse and that the state will then seek immediate action after that.

“You’ll see the secretary go to the 11th Circuit and ask for them to stay the order,” Hasen said. “Then this could potentially end up, in pretty short order, before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

As of Friday, 2,451 absentee ballots have been rejected in Georgia. Some of the signature rejections don’t match government records.