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Court Rules Voters Be Notified Immediately If Their Mail-In Ballots Don’t Count

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People who vote by mail are now being notified immediately if their signatures do not match the ones on record from their supervisor of elections office, thanks to a new ruling.

Prior to Oct. 16, voters who mailed in ballots with signatures that differed from their record were not notified until after elections were over that their vote was not counted. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled this as unconstitutional.

The change came about after a court order, according to Florida Department of State Director of Communications Meredith Beatrice.

A memorandum was then sent to Supervisors of Elections with the court order attached, stating the new ruling to go into effect immediately.

“We know, as humans, we cannot recreate our signature and match exactly two times in a row, you just can’t do that. The mailings that we’re doing, it’s in no way a match,” said Marion County Supervisor of Elections, Wesley Wilcox.

Wilcox said 21 individuals have been contacted via mail or phone about unmatched signatures since the order went into effect. The Supervisor of Elections office for Marion County is currently waiting on voters to return the affidavit they were given in order to correct their signatures and cast their vote.

The Florida Division of Elections website states there were 23,911 vote-by-mail ballots in Marion County and 1,308 in Bradford as of Tuesday morning.

Bradford County so far has only had three to four vote-by-mail ballots flagged due to signatures that did not match, according to Bradford County Supervisor of Elections Terry Vaughan.

“Through the years we have found that, in many cases, voter signatures change,” he said.

“Sometimes people will register when they turn 18 and 20 or 30 years later, they still have the original signature on file and their signatures have either changed or it could be a situation where a voter due to a medical issue, such as a stroke or Parkinson’s, could have a much different signature now than they had in the recent past.”

Signatures need to have a very distinct difference between ballots and the signatures on record with supervisors of elections. Both Vaughan and Wilcox look for matching handwriting styles.

“In particular in one that I was looking at the other day, this person had an H that started their name and their H had some very distinctive marks in the cursive writing but when the name was printed it was a very squared-off block lettering and had none of those distinctive markings,” Wilcox said.

In addition to their updated signature, voters who receive the affidavit must also provide a state photo ID.

“It’s new, it’s something that we (in Bradford County) don’t have that many cases of,” said Vaughan, “but throughout the state there will be quite a few voters who will fall into this situation, and they’ll have the opportunity to get an updated signature.”

About Carolina Lafuente

Carolina is a reporter for WUFT News. She can be reached at news@wuft.org or 352-392-6397.

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