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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

Nov 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pennsylvania secretary of state says she won't order recount

Election workers count ballots at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said on Friday that based on unofficial returns, she will not order a recount or recanvass of ballots cast in the 2020 election, including in the presidential race.

Why it matters: President Trump, who has not publicly conceded to President-elect Joe Biden, continues to litigate election results, including in Pennsylvania.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Key government agency says Biden transition can formally begin

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy. Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Getty Images

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that she has determined the transition from the Trump administration can formally begin.

Why it matters: Murphy, a Trump appointee, had come under fire for delaying the so-called "ascertainment" and withholding the funds and information needed for the transition to begin while Trump's legal challenges played out.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key information about the effective COVID-19 vaccines — Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries.
  2. Health: U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations keep breaking recordsWhy we're numb to 250,000 deaths.
  3. World: England to impose stricter regional systemU.S. hotspots far outpacing Europe's — Portugal to ban domestic travel for national holidays.
  4. Economy: The biggest pandemic labor market drags.
  5. Sports: Coronavirus precautions leave college basketball schedule in flux.