WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a lawsuit was filed challenging Georgia’s requirement that absentee ballot applications must be signed with pen and ink in order to be valid, which is commonly referred to as a wet signature requirement. This requirement means that digital or electronic signatures are not accepted and the voter must physically put pen to paper to create a valid signature. In other words, under this requirement, an individual can fill out an absentee ballot application online, but then must print out the application in order to sign it with pen and paper before submitting it online, by mail or in person. The plaintiffs, Vote.org, Georgia Alliance for Retired Americans and Priorities USA, argue that this arbitrary rule may disenfranchise voters who rely on absentee voting but now have to navigate “arcane rules and administrative traps,” in addition to having access to a printer if they wish to complete the application online, in order to request an absentee ballot. Because absentee ballot applications may be rejected for reasons that are unrelated to voters’ eligibility, the lawsuit alleges that the wet signature requirement violates the Civil Rights Act and should be blocked by the court.
The plaintiffs point out digital signatures are widely accepted in other contexts in Georgia, such as obtaining a driver’s or hunting license or for completing real estate transactions. Despite the widespread use of digital signatures in Georgia, Republicans in the Legislature insisted on including this wet signature requirement in the state’s 2021 voter suppression law, Senate Bill 202, even though they “offered no justification for demanding that this signature appear in pen and ink when an electronic, digital, or imaged signature would suffice.” Texas is similarly being sued by Vote.org over its wet signature law.