Over 32,000 vote-by-mail ballots have been received at the Marion County Supervisor of Elections Office. Of those ballots, 33 did not match the voter registration signatures.
This means the signature on the outside of the mail-in ballot did not match the signature on a voter’s registration card on file at the Supervisor of Elections. When this happens the elections office cannot accept the ballot until it is fixed, so they mail an affidavit to the voter to sign, so that it matches the voter registration card.
There were also 62 ballots with blank signature lines. An affidavit was also sent to these voters to be signed and sent back to the elections office.
Once a voter receives an affidavit and mails it back, the signature is checked again and the ballot is accepted.
This hasn’t always been how the process worked though. Last year, election offices were not able to send out affidavits until the day of the election, which did not leave nearly enough time for the signature to be corrected, according to Wesley Wilcox, Marion County Supervisor of Elections.
“In reality, on Election Day, when the canvassing board meets, if they determine a signature doesn’t match, it’s typically morning, afternoon, whatever it may be, but the letter to that voter isn’t going to hit the mail until Wednesday— that’s reality,” said Wilcox.
Consequently, the voter’s ballot would not count. The affidavit sent to the voter would only serve to correct the signature for future elections.
In Alachua County, hundreds of the 21,000 mail-in ballots cast so far are under review for mismatched signatures, according to Pam Carpenter, Alachua County Supervisor of Elections.
“We have the first review process, which is [the] staff reviews it, then administrative staff reviews it, and only those that are deemed a mismatch will be sent to the canvassing board for further review,” said Carpenter.
The canvassing board is the group of people who opens each ballot and reviews them before they are processed. They are the final judge of whether a signature matches after an affidavit has been issued and received by the elections office.
Despite the high numbers of questionable signatures, Carpenter said the new system has helped.
“I think it is always helpful when you have another opportunity to correct something,” she said, “so I think it is going to be very beneficial to our citizens.”
“We’re saying, ‘Hey, we noticed a discrepancy in your vote-by-mail signature. We need a signature update for future elections.’ So they really gave the voter no recourse at that point in time. This earlier process is giving the voter that recourse prior to Election Day.”
In accordance with Florida statute 101.68, all affidavits for blank and signature mismatches must be returned to the Supervisor of Elections office by 5 p.m. Monday to count in the November 8 election.