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1 Robert Timothy Reagan, An Opportunity to Cure Absentee Ballot Signatures That Do Not Match Voter Registration Records 1 (2018)

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CASE STUDIES IN EMERGENCY ELECTION LITIGATION


                     An   Opportunity to Cure
                   Absentee Ballot Signatures
      That   Do   Not   Match Voter Registration Records
                 Florida  Democratic   Party  v. Detzner
               (Mark   E. Walker,  N.D.  Fla. 4:16-cv-607)
       A  little over one month before a general election, a political party
       filed a federal complaint seeking opportunities to cure mismatches
       between  absentee ballot signatures and voter registration signa-
       tures, noting an existing opportunity to cure signature omissions.
       After taking testimony from the local county supervisor of elec-
       tions, the district judge issued a preliminary injunction requiring an
       opportunity to cure signature mismatches.
           Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: Signature matching;
       absentee ballots; equal protection; news media; attorney fees.
On  October 3, 2016, a little over one month before the general election, a po-
litical party filed a federal complaint in the Northern District of Florida
against Florida's secretary of state seeking an opportunity to cure when  a
voter's signature on a mailed absentee ballot is judged not to match the sig-
nature on file.' According to the complaint, a mismatched signature caused
the ballot to be excluded from the election, but an absent signature triggered
an opportunity to cure the defect before the election although because Flor-
ida's system of signature review involves human  reviewers, it is necessarily
fallible.2 With its complaint, the party filed an emergency motion for a pre-
liminary injunction, noting that the canvassing  of returned vote-by-mail
ballots is to begin on October 24.1
    The party experienced technical difficulties filing the case electronically,4
perhaps because  the party's attorneys were not registered with the court as
electronic filers.5 For that reason, there was a delay in Judge Mark E. Walk-
er's learning that he had been assigned the case.6 On October 6, Judge Walk-
er set a telephone conference for the following day and ordered the party to
immediately  serve the secretary's attorneys.




   1. Complaint, Fla. Democratic Party v. Detzner, No. 4:16-cv-607 (N.D. Fla. Oct. 3, 2016),
D.E. 5; see Steve Bousquet, Florida Sued Over Mail Ballots, Tampa Bay Times, Oct. 4, 2016,
at 5; Steve Bousquet, Mail Voting Heads to Record, Tampa Bay Times, Oct. 6, 2016, at 1.
   2. Complaint, supra note 1, at 14.
   3. Motion, Fla. Democratic Party, No. 4:16-cv-607 (N.D. Fla. Oct. 3, 2016), D.E. 1.
   4. Interview with Hon. Mark E. Walker, Oct. 31, 2016.
   Tim Reagan interviewed Judge Walker for this report by telephone.
   5. Notice, Fla. Democratic Party, No. 4:16-cv-607 (N.D. Fla. Oct. 5, 2016), D.E. 8.
   6. Interview with Hon. Mark E. Walker, Oct. 31, 2016 (noting the importance of the
clerk's office keeping a judge informed about emergency filings assigned to the judge).
   7. Order, Fla. Democratic Party, No. 4:16-cv-607 (N.D. Fla. Oct. 6, 2016), D.E. 12.


Federal Judicial Center 11/16/2018


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