The author, Carmelina Palmer, is the lead individual client in Campaign Legal Center (CLC)’s suit against New York State over their absentee ballot rejection process.
My name is Carmelina Palmer and for the past five years I have been fortunate to call New York home.
Despite requesting an absentee ballot for the June 2020 primaries, I had to vote in person due to the late arrival of my absentee ballot. I am deeply worried about my ability to vote from home and know my vote is counted.
I was diagnosed with a neurological condition that causes hand tremors. When I am shaking, my handwriting is hardly recognizable compared with my normal state. Creating legible words while my hand is uncontrollably moving is practically impossible. In regards to voting, this means that I am at risk of having my ballot rejected due to a signature mismatch. Signature matching is not a science, and election officials are not trained handwriting experts. How can they be expected to compare discrepancies in the signature I give on my absentee ballot with the one on the voter registration file?
It is not uncommon for local elections to be decided by fewer votes than the number rejected. New York rejected 14% of absentee ballots in 2018, which is alarming. In our system, where each citizen has the right and should have access to vote, this ensures that not everyone’s voice is given equal weight.
There’s a lot at stake in every election. Exercising the right to vote is important to ensure that we are living in a healthy democracy. I’m the type of person that will show up to vote, and my voice should be heard without having to sacrifice safety for reassurance that my ballot is not being thrown out.
I signed on to this lawsuit to right the wrongs of past disenfranchisement by providing all absentee voters the opportunity to fix signature verification issues before their ballots are thrown away. All voters should be able to have confidence that when they participate in an election, their vote will be counted. With this lawsuit, my hope is to have that confidence restored.