Decision 2020

Mail-in Ballot Signatures Shouldn't Disqualify Voters, Pa. Officials Say

NBC10 first reported Monday that more than 1,700 mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania's June primary election were not counted because the outer envelope wasn't signed or had a signature that was ruled inconsistent with the voter's registration card.

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has told county election offices not to discard a mail-in ballot in the Nov. 3 presidential election based solely on what a signature looks like on the ballot's outer envelope.

The guidance comes after 1,773 mail-in ballots were not counted in the June primary because local election offices found faults with the signatures required on the outer envelope, according to Pennsylvania Department of State data.

NBC10 first reported the uncounted ballots on Monday. The lack of or inconsistent signatures in the voter declaration section of the mail-in ballot accounted for a small portion of the nearly 20,000 mail-in ballots that were not counted in the primary. Another 18,115 mail-in ballots were thrown out because they were returned too late, the data showed.

Pennsylvania is expected to be decided by a very close margin in the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. In 2016, Trump beat Hillary Clinton by about 44,000 votes out of 6 million ballots cast. That's less than 1%.

Ben Geffen of the Public Interest Law Center told NBC10 after learning of the discarded ballots that the rules for accepting and counting mail-in ballots should make it easier, not harder, for voters. That includes reconsidering the importance of a signature on the outer envelope and installation of dropboxes for mail-in ballots throughout the 67 counties.

The guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees the state's election laws, was not yet publicly known.

"If there's one takeaway from that, we need to do a better job in the general election than we did in the primary ensuring that everyone who wants to vote gets their vote counted," Geffen said. "The system needs to work for voters. The red tape shouldn’t get in the way of a ballot being counted."

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