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PA mailed ballots can’t be discarded over signature, state says

FILE - In this May 28, 2020, file photo, mail-in primary election ballots are processed at the Chester County Voter Services office in West Chester, Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf's top election official said Friday, Aug. 14, that the administration had to take action after receiving a blunt warning from the U.S. Postal Service that it may be unable to deliver some mail-in ballots in the November presidential election by the deadline in state law. That warning precipitated Thursday night's filing in the state Supreme Court asking for an order to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots to be received in the Nov. 3 election when Pennsylvania will be a premier presidential battleground. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

HARRISBURG (AP) — With concerns rising in Pennsylvania that tens of thousands of mail-in ballots will be discarded in the presidential election over technicalities, state officials told counties that they cannot reject a ballot solely because an election official believes a signature doesn’t match the signature in the voter’s file.

The new guidance from Pennsylvania’s Department of State prompted the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh to drop a lawsuit in federal court Monday.

The groups had sought to ensure that voters have the chance to fix ballots that are either missing signatures or flagged for a perceived signature mismatch.

A 2019 state law greatly expanded access to mail-in balloting in Pennsylvania and, fueled by concerns over the pandemic, more than 3 million voters are expected to cast ballots by mail in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

That’s roughly 10 times the number who voted by mail in the battleground state in 2016’s election when President Donald Trump’s 44,000-vote victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania helped propel him to the White House.

In Pennsylvania’s June 2 primary election alone, when 1.5 million voted by mail, more than 26,000 of ballots were rejected, including for “signature-related errors or matters of penmanship,” the lawsuit said.

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