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Voter Rights Groups Sue State Over Signature Matching Process

A stack of Ohio's newest "I Voted" stickers sit in a basket at the Franklin County Board of Elections office in Columbus.
Karen Kasler

Voter rights groups are suing the state over what they call an inconsistent process that results in ballots being tossed out. The groups say there's plenty of time to create a new system before the November election.

Jen Miller, League of Women Voters of Ohio executive director, says the techniques and resources to verify signatures on absentee ballot applications and ballots vary from one county to another. She wants a federal court to find the process unconstitutional. 

"Anything that is this level of weight that it could deny someone's access to the ballot should be uniform across all 88 counties," says Miller.

The Ohio Democratic Party is also suing for voters to request absentee ballots online. 

Secretary of State Frank LaRose says an online ballot requests system would not be a good idea.

"Implementing an insecure system where emailed attachments could just as easily be a virus as it could be a picture of a ballot request form puts our election in danger. In just a few weeks, we are putting a ballot request form in the hands of every registered voter. That allows every voter to have their voice heard," LaRose said in a written statement.

The secretary of state also responded to the lawsuit filed by the voter rights groups, including the ACLU of Ohio.

“Ohio voters expect accessible and secure elections. This lawsuit is a solution in search of a problem that would obliterate Ohio’s safeguards on providing secure, no fault absentee voting to every eligible voter. As always, I’m open to working with these groups to improve Ohio’s processes and technologies related to signature verification, but a lawsuit 67 days before early voting begins is not the solution," says LaRose.

The secretary's office says, of the 1.5 million ballots cast by mail during this year's extended primary, 271 were rejected because of mismatching signatures.

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