The Importance of a Signature

With the Presidential Election less than a week away, the station I work at is covering a lot of political stories.  I have done four of them in the last eight days.  The story we covered today was the most fascinating.

Thousands of voters are showing up at election offices, city halls and libraries all over Orange County.  Some people are waiting nearly two hours to vote early so they don’t have to wait on Election Day.  For those who are voting from the convenience of their home, aka absentee voting, all they need to do is fill out their ballot and mail it in.  Simple enough, right?  WELL….not if your signature doesn’t match.

When you registered to vote, last year, five, ten or twenty years ago, you signed your name…simple enough.  However, what you may not know is when you sign your absentee ballot, if your signature doesn’t closely resemble your signature when you registered to vote, you may have a problem and your vote may not count.  For many, their signatures have changed over the years, or you may not have noticed how you signed when you registered, it turns out you should have paid attention, if you didn’t.

We went to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections today and they showed us how they verify the signatures.  First, each ballot goes into a machine that compares your signature in a matter of seconds.  If it gets flagged, it goes to a team of a dozen people who look up your signature when you registered, and they compare it to your absentee ballot signature, and they decide if it closely resembles.  If it doesn’t, it then goes to a County Canvassing Board comprising of a couple judges who decide if the signature is yours or not.  If they don’t think it is, you lose your vote.  They mail you a letter describing your situation, informing you that your signature didn’t match, and no matter how hard you fight it and tell them it is your signature, you have no chance to get your vote back.  Once you mail in your absentee, you cannot vote again, even if the County Canvassing Board denies your chance of voting.

Sounds pretty radical, right?

Well, consider this…during the 2000 Presidential Election, Florida came down to the swing state.  By a margin of 537 votes, President Bush won Florida and thus the Election.  The supervisors of elections across the state have to know if the absentee ballots are real.  I saw some of the discrepancies and comparing the two signatures, they were not even remotely close in similarity.  Is that vote supposed to count, then?  The committees say no, it shouldn’t.

Lesson to be learned is…as always, when filling out important paperwork, always sign your name as cleanly and legibly as possible.  If you barely sign it one time, and sign it for real another time, that’s a huge difference and more than likely, your signature will not count.

If you want your vote to count, make sure your signature counts.


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