ACLU: NH disenfranchising people with disabilities

New Hampshire is improperly rejecting hundreds of absentee ballots, many cast by people with disabilities, over signature issues, a new lawsuit filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleges.

Says the complaint: “No voter should be disenfranchised simply because of penmanship.”

A 2010 New Hampshire law allows election officials to reject absentee ballots if the signature on the ballot appears not to match other records. But people with disabilities may need someone else to sign their name — which is allowed under federal law —  or may have a signature that changes over time.

Over 500 Granite Staters have been disenfranchised during the last five years because of signature issues on their absentee ballot, the ACLU says.

Among them is Mary Saucedo, a 94-year-old legally blind woman from Manchester, who relied on her husband to complete her ballot in the 2016 general election. Election officials rejected the ballot because the signature on it didn’t match Saucedo’s.

Saucedo, a plaintiff in the suit, was never told her vote didn’t count.

The ACLU calls New Hampshire’s process arbitrary. Election officials have no special expertise in handwriting analysis, the group says, and they haven’t created a transparent and standardized procedure for rejecting ballots. The ACLU alleges that New Hampshire’s process violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Constitution.

The office of New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the suit.

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