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Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Friday that election officials cannot reject a mailed-in ballot because a voter’s signature may not resemble the one on their registration form.

Why it matters: The decision comes as a win for voting rights advocates and Democrats who say the signature disqualification rule can disenfranchise voters. In 2016, it was the top reason that ballots were rejected, with 28% of disqualified ballots flagged for non-matching signatures, according to the Election Assistance Commission.

  • Friday's decision further indicated that mail ballots will not be disqualified because of “third-party challenges based on signature analysis and comparisons,” wiping out a method for politically motivated observers to dispute the efficacy of a vote based on a perceived signature mismatch.

The big picture: President Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee had challenged an earlier decision by Pennsylvania election officials to defend signature-matching, claiming the practice helped defend against fraud.

  • The state has little experience with voting by mail, but like many others is expected to see a wave of ballots submitted by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. So far nearly 1.5 million voters across Pennsylvania have sent in ballots, according to the U.S. Elections Project.
  • Before this year absentee ballots were the only type of mail-in ballots permitted in the state, and were specifically for those who couldn't get to the polls on Election Day "due to travel or poor health," as per The Morning Call. This year marks the first time Pennsylvania voters are not required to have a specific excuse to vote by mail.

What they're saying: The court sided with the head of the Pennsylvania Department of State, Kathy Boockvar, who argued in her court filing that signature rejections pose “a grave risk of disenfranchisement on an arbitrary and wholly subjective basis," US News reports.

The bottom line: A smart analysis from FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich details how the entire election could hinge on Pennsylvania:

  • "Pennsylvania is so important that our model gives Trump an 84 percent chance of winning the presidency if he carries the state — and it gives Biden a 96 percent chance of winning if Pennsylvania goes blue."

Go deeper: Top 5 mail voting mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Go deeper

Dec 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Early voting begins in Georgia's key Senate runoffs

Voters line outside the High Museum polling station in Atlanta, Georgia on the first day of voting in the state's Senate runoffs. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

People lined up outside polling places across Georgia on Monday for the first day of early voting in the state's two runoff elections that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

The big picture: More than 1.2 million people have already requested mail-in absentee ballots and more than 260,000 have returned them as of Monday, per data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

Scoop: Stephanie Murphy announcing challenge to Marco Rubio

Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is planning to announce a campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in early June, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Murphy is a proven fundraiser. Jumping in now would give her an early start to build her case for the Democratic nomination and potentially force Rubio and allied GOP groups to spend heavily to retain a seat in a state that’s trending Republican.

Inside the GOP's infrastructure strategy

Sen. Roger Wicker. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top Republican senators are hoping the White House will make some sort of counteroffer to their infrastructure proposal when they meet with President Biden on Thursday, lawmakers and their aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is a sign of how serious the negotiations are, they say. In advance of the meeting, some of the senators are already publicly signaling the areas in which they have flexibility.