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A man returns his absentee ballot on the first day of in-person early voting in the Senate runoff election, at the Cobb County Elections Department, in Marietta, Ga., on Dec. 14, 2020.

Audra Melton/The New York Times News Service

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a Republican Party effort to reject more absentee ballots in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs by changing how election officials check absentee ballot signatures.

A three-judge panel ruled unanimously Sunday against the lawsuit brought by the political campaigns of Republican U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, as well as the Georgia Republican Party and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

It’s the latest in a series of court decisions rebuffing challenges to Georgia’s election rules and procedures following President Donald Trump’s 12,000-vote loss to Joe Biden. Loeffler and Perdue face Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in runoffs Jan. 5.

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The court found that it would be “contrary to state law” to order the secretary of state and State Election Board to conduct a different signature matching process. Elections in Georgia are run at the county level.

“Since the secretary and the election board do not conduct the signature matching process, are not the election officials that review the voter’s signature, and do not control whether the signature matching process can be observed, the campaigns’ alleged injury is not traceable to the secretary,” wrote Judges Charles Wilson, Beverly Martin and Robert Luck.

Voter signatures on absentee ballots are checked by county election officials against the signatures voters used when they registered to vote. The lawsuit had sought to have voter signatures reviewed by three election workers instead of one before absentee ballots could be counted.

Attorneys for the defendant, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, had argued that claims of fraudulently signed and submitted absentee ballots were speculative. Voter fraud allegations have repeatedly failed in court since the presidential election.

The appellate court upheld the ruling of a federal judge who denied relief to the plaintiffs last week.

But as the lawsuit fell short, another was filed in federal court this weekend.

Trump supporter L. Lin Wood’s new lawsuit repeats conspiracy theories about Georgia’s voting machines and attacks signature verification procedures, early processing of absentee ballots and ballot drop boxes. Federal courts have rejected a previous lawsuit by Wood.

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