WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Oct. 7, a North Carolina judge issued an order denying a Republican request to temporarily adopt signature matching requirements for mail-in ballots in the upcoming November election. Therefore, election officials must count voters’ mail-in ballots even if the signature on their ballots does not exactly match the signature on file in their voter registration record. The judge’s ruling stems from a lawsuit — filed by the North Carolina Republican Party (NC GOP) and two Republicans — challenging the North Carolina State Board of Elections’ (NCSBE) July 22 decision to reject the Republicans’ request to give county boards of election the discretion to accept or reject mail-in ballots based on whether a voter’s signature on their mail-in ballot matches the signature on their voter registration. The NC GOP alleged that the NCSBE’s denial of its request to impose signature matching procedures for mail-in ballots violates the North Carolina and U.S. Constitutions and that the state board lacks authority to make such a decision.
In the order issued last Friday, the judge stated that Republican “[p]etitioners failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits” and “failed to demonstrate that [they] will suffer an irreparable harm.” Notably, the Republican plaintiffs centered their arguments on the premise that NCSBE lacks the authority to “make” election laws and that by “directing county boards to not compare voter signatures, the State Board is effectively creating a law that does not exist.” However, the judge outright rejected this hypocritical argument, explaining that by requesting the implementation of signature matching requirements, the Republican plaintiffs are “asking this Court to legislate.” The judge further articulated that the “General Assembly has provided the mechanisms it deemed reasonably necessary to determine the authenticity of signatures on absentee ballots and protect the security and authenticity of the ballot…The comparison of signatures is not among these [mechanisms].” This decision is a win for North Carolina voters and represents a repudiation of Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters for arbitrary reasons that are unrelated to their eligibility to vote.