Appeals court keeps Tennessee mail voting signature match

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FILE – In this July 14, 2020, file photo, election worker Adonlie DeRoche, seated, wears a mask and face shield behind Plexiglas for safety during the coronavirus pandemic, while handing a ballot and single-use pen to a voter during the primary election in Portland, Maine. Thousands of U.S. election officials are busy sharing creative ideas they hope will keep voters and polling places safe from infection. (AP Photo/David Sharp, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A U.S. appellate panel won’t change Tennessee’s signature matching requirement for absentee voting before the November election, affirming a lower court’s decision.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel split Thursday in denying the preliminary injunction, which sought to let voters fix signature issues before mail ballot rejections.

For the majority, Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote there’s no evidence Tennessee’s signature verification procedures will infringe anyone’s constitutional rights. She noted extremely few voters face signature-related rejections, saying voters can cast another absentee ballot or vote provisionally, time permitting.

Judge Karen Nelson Moore’s dissent claimed “yet another chapter in the concentrated effort to restrict the vote.” She said allowing signature fixes would prevent “the possibility of confused voters clogging up polling places” after they already tried voting.

Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett commended the decision, calling signature matching “an important part of keeping the integrity” of absentee voting.

Attorney Caleb Jackson said his group, Campaign Legal Center, will keep litigating that Tennessee absentee voting issue and others.

Lawsuits over Tennessee mail voting laws amid COVID-19 have spurred some changes.

Voters more susceptible to COVID-19 and their caretakers and housemates are eligible. So are first-time voters, without having to show ID at an election office beforehand.

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