In a surprising move late Sunday night, United States district judge in Florida, Mark Walker, a President Obama nominee, ruled that the state must provide a method for voters to fix signature problems on mail-in ballots before the election.
According to the original law on the books, voters who submitted ballots by mail with signatures that did not match those on file with the supervisors of elections could be thrown out. Another major problem regarding the signatures was that between Florida’s sixty-seven counties, there was no uniform way of evaluating whether signatures should or should not be counted.
The Florida Democratic party and Democratic National Committee sued the state on October 3 for concerns that their votes were not being counted accurately because of the law.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, “Facing a court-ordered deadline, Secretary of State Ken Detzner directed 67 county election supervisors to give voters a second chance if a signature on a mail ballot envelope does not match the signature on file.”
Walker wrote, “The state of Florida has categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters arguably for no reason other than they have poor handwriting or their handwriting has changed over time.” He went on to accuse the state of Florida of “consistently chipp[ing] away at the right to vote,” Walker wrote. “This court knows disenfranchisement when it sees it and it is obscene.”
Detzner had originally said that he did not have authority to force the sixty-seven county election commissioners to allow signatures to be redone if they did not match.
The Miami Herald reports that this is seen as a win for Democrats and the Democrat National Committee.“U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling was a victory for the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee, which sued the state Oct. 3 arguing Florida canvassing boards shouldn’t immediately reject a ballot if a voter’s signature doesn’t match the one on file.”
The Tampa Bay Times pointed out this is the “second time in a week that the judge, a nominee of President Barack Obama, sided with the Democratic Party in a voting rights case in the nation’s biggest battleground state, at a time when Donald Trump was raging against what he called a ‘rigged election.’” Earlier this week, the voter registration deadline was extended due to hurricane Matthews’ impact on people’s ability to register to vote.