“People should not be denied their right to vote because of penmanship, but that’s exactly what is happening in Georgia,” Sophia Lakin, a staff attorney with the A.C.L.U. Voting Rights Project, said in a statement issued before the election.
In Florida, out of more than 2 million ballots cast by mail, lawyers in Mr. Nelson’s lawsuit said state officials had identified about 5,000 that were rejected over questions of signature validity and other ballot issues. However, Mr. Smith, who conducted the A.C.L.U.’s study on the signature issue, said he had obtained data from the Florida secretary of state showing that as of Nov. 12, at least 20,000 ballots had been thrown out during this election, about half of them because of signature mismatches and similar issues.
Judge Mark Walker of the Federal District Court in Tallahassee was trying to determine how counties match signatures on mail-in ballots to signatures in the voter file, and what criteria they use to decide a signature is a mismatch.
Preliminary data provided by the secretary of state shows that the greatest number of ballots rejected on signature issues was in Palm Beach County, a Democratic stronghold that threw out 931 ballots. Broward County rejected 188 because of signature issues.
Judge Walker chastised lawyers for the Republicans for making unsubstantiated claims that voter fraud was the reason such ballots were rejected. He also seemed troubled that the lawyers working on behalf of Mr. Nelson’s campaign were, in effect, asking him to rewrite Florida election law by requesting that local officials disregard the requirement that signatures match.
“This just seems like a really bad way to do this,” he said.
Republicans, from President Trump on down, have blasted the legal effort as an attempt to hijack the election. “Dem lawyers came to Florida to get judges to change Florida elections laws, AFTER the election. That isn’t a strategy to win an election, that is a strategy to steal an election,” Senator Marco Rubio wrote Wednesday on Twitter.