Absentee ballot signatures; how to ensure your vote will count

Voters: Start your balloting! Ballots in North Carolina get mailed out Friday
Posted at 4:22 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 21:05:05-04

ADA COUNTY — Ada County started mailing absentee ballots this week, officially kicking off the election. Once your absentee ballot is received by the clerk's office, it’s time-stamped, then they check your signature.

Ada County Clerk, Phil McGrane says the number one problem the Ada County Elections Office has seen with absentee ballots, is a missing signature.

“Ultimately, if it’s not signed, we can’t verify the authenticity of that ballot, so we can’t count it,” McGrane says.

Each absentee ballot has an affidavit on the back, where one can verify their identity. Once the ballot is received, every signature is compared to the voter's registration card or driver’s license application.

“What we’re looking for is just to validate the voter is who they say they are when they vote. It’s just an effort to prevent voter fraud and to maintain the integrity of the process,” McGrane says.

Since signatures are compared to previous ones, ones you might have even written when you were 18. Does it need to be the perfect match? The answer is no. Staff is trained to compare these signatures.

Also, what if you sign differently each time? For example, if your name is John Doe and sometimes you sign Johnathan Doe, other times you sign J. Doe, those will all still count.

“Signatures don’t vary that much. When you compare them to hordes of other signatures, it's amazing to see how distinct they actually are and so anytime we reject one we have multiple eyes on one of those before we do. We do see some signatures that don’t much. We will, one reject those and two, make an effort to reach out to the voter,” McGrane says.

During the May election earlier this year, 96,000 people voted through absentee in Ada County.

Out of those ballots, only 0.6% of the ballots were rejected and three-quarters of those were discarded because someone forgot to sign at all.

“That’s by far in a way the number one issue. We also see things where the wrong person signs. You know a roommate signs another person’s ballot. We work through a variety of issues and only a small fraction is ones that we actually have to look into for potential voter fraud,” McGrane says.

So, when you are sending a ballot back in, remember to double-check that you are signing your ballot and not someone else's. Absentee ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on election night.