The League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs have filed their response to Secretary of State John Thurston’s fight to prevent an opportunity for absentee voters to address rejection of a ballot during Election Commission signature matching.
David Couch, attorney for the plaintiffs, lays out the issue:
Plaintiffs demonstrated in their opening brief that, at a time when record numbers of Arkansans will vote by absentee ballots, they are likely to succeed on their procedural due process and fundamental right to vote claims, and that the requested relief bolsters rather than hinders the State’s and public’s interests in election integrity. Nor do Defendants seriously contest that Arkansas’s signature matching requirement is error-prone, that officials are capable of contacting voters whose ballots are alleged to have minor discrepancies, and that Arkansas already allows absentee voters with other ballot deficiencies the opportunity to cure. Indeed, Arkansas is an outlier nationally, as it is one of only four states in the United States that currently requires signature matching and does not provide for any opportunity to cure.
In response, Defendants dance around the merits. They ignore the key issue in this case, which is that failing to provide notice and the opportunity to cure for absentee voters whose ballots are rejected for signature deficiencies leaves them with absolutely no recourse against erroneous disenfranchisement. When a voter has submitted an absentee ballot to election officials, they are prohibited from casting an in-person ballot that will count. Nor can they apply for a second absentee ballot— even if their first absentee ballot is rejected due to a missing or mismatched signature. These other aspects of the voting regime are thus irrelevant to voters who have already cast their absentee ballot, and unbeknownst to them, had their ballots rejected. Defendants ignore that this lack of notice and cure is why hundreds of absentee ballots cast by eligible voters were rejected in 2016 and 2018, and do not dispute that more legitimate ballots will be rejected in future elections.
It seems obviously wrong. It will unfairly cause thousands of eligible voters to lose the franchise without recourse. To understand the state resistance, you have to know that Republicans control the state. They believe (though the evidence isn’t clear they’re correct) that the mail vote is predominantly Democratic and thus should be suppressed to the maximum extent possible.
Federal Judge P.K. Holmes has the case. He’ll rule expeditiously. If he provides no relief for this election on account of lateness of the hour, Couch has said the suit will continue to prevent this unfair process in the future.