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Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A federal judge in South Carolina on Tuesday ruled that the state cannot reject absentee ballots because of signature mismatches, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: District Judge Richard Mark Gergel said the practice places "a significant burden" on voting rights, and that there is no clear standard for matching signatures. The case is among a slew of election-related litigation to have been before the federal courts during the cycle.

  • "Here, absentee ballots, which meet all statutory requirements under South Carolina law, may nonetheless be disqualified on the basis of a subjective judgment that the voter’s signature does not match some sample relied upon by county election officials," Gergel wrote, per WashPost.
  • "Moreover, a number of the counties conducting signature matching procedures have no or ill-defined procedures for providing affected voters timely notice of a signature mismatch determination or a timely procedure for challenging that determination."

The state of play: The ruling prohibits election boards from rejecting ballots for mismatches without giving voters notice and an opportunity to contest it. Gergel ordered the state to reprocess ballots that had already been thrown out because of mismatches.

What they're saying: "This decision is a significant win for voter confidence in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our elections with rule changes, delays, and massive surges in mail voting," said Christe McCoy-Lawrence, co-president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.

  • "This ruling erases the uncertainty voters might feel about whether their absentee ballot signature may not exactly match a previous one on record.”

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.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 5 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.