News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
George Frey/Getty Images

The law permits election officials (generally not trained handwriting analyzers) to disregard mail-in ballots if they decide the signatures don't match others on file.

Liberal group sues to stop signature reviews in bellwether Michigan

Michigan has become the latest battleground over state laws that allow local election officials to discard mail-in ballots when signatures aren't similar enough to the handwriting on file.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court by Priorities USA, a liberal super PAC, claims "the state's arbitrary and standardless signature-matching laws" have disenfranchised "hundreds of voters in recent elections for no other reason than an election official's subjective and arbitrary determination that a voter's signature on an absentee ballot (or ballot application) did not match a prior signature that the voter provided to election officials."

Michigan has the potential to produce several pivotal contests next fall, underscoring the truism that every vote will count. President Trump won the state by fewer than 11,000 votes last time, the first Republican to carry it in seven elections. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters faces a stiff challenge and so do a pair of House members from each party.

Illness, injury, pen type, paper quality, ink and a host of other factors can alter a person's signature, according to the suit, which notes that state law doesn't require election officials to receive any training in signature handwriting analysis nor does it offer voters whose ballots are uncounted a mechanism to appeal.

A lawsuit filed in August challenged a similar "exact match" law in Texas, where election officials can also discard mail-in ballots after comparing signatures.

Efforts to overturn signature-matching laws by voters and Democratic groups have succeeded in some states where such laws were passed with Republican legislatures and governors.

Earlier this month, for instance, a judge in Iowa struck down a provision in state law that allowed local election officials to block a voter if their in-person and registration signatures didn't match. That lawsuit was also financed by Priorities USA.

And last year, a federal judge blocked an exact-match signature law in Georgia, where 50,000 voter registration forms were stalled ahead of the 2018 election because perceived signature mismatches were found on the applications and other state records.

News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.

Big Picture
nicescene/Getty Images

Most voters named political corruption as a top-of-mind issue ahead of the 2020 election in a new poll.

Political corruption seen as America’s biggest problem, another poll shows

More voters see "corruption in our political system" as the country's most pressing problem than any of the other issues getting greater attention in the 2020 campaign, new polling shows.

The online survey conducted in September asked voters whether seven different issues were an "extremely serious problem" for the country, and the only one where a majority said yes was political corruption; rising health care costs came in second at 49 percent.

The poll is only the latest to declare the electorate's dire concern about the broken political system. In just the last month, two-thirds of voters told one poll they believe the country is on the "edge of a civil war" and a plurality in another poll identified the government itself as the country's biggest problem.

But the topic of democracy reform is getting hardly any mention in the presidential race. Though most of the Democratic candidates have plans for limiting money in politics, making voting easier, securing elections and restoring the balance of powers, few have emphasized these ideas on the trail. And President Trump, who four years ago ran as the candidate most interested in "draining the swamp," rarely mentions this aspiration anymore.

Keep reading... Show less
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

A third lawsuit has been filed in less than a month by the liberal group Priorities USA challenging voting laws and regulations in Michigan. Above, a voter heads to a polling place in Grosse Pointe Park.

Another day, another lawsuit challenging Michigan voting laws

A Democratic advocacy group has filed a third lawsuit in less than a month challenging Michigan laws and policies it says restrict voting rights.

The focus on Michigan voting laws by the super PAC Priorities USA reflects the importance of the state's 16 electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election. President Trump won Michigan, a swing state, by less than half a percentage point in 2016.

The latest lawsuit, filed Friday in state court, challenges actions taken after a successful 2018 ballot initiative expanded voting options, such as allowing people to register to vote at any time (including on Election Day). It also automatically registered people to vote when they obtained or renewed their driver's licenses.

Keep reading... Show less