Thursday, August 20, 2020

What Happens If A Voter Fails to Sign Mail-in Ballot?

Pennsylvania Secretary of State, Kathy Boockvar, is the chief statewide official responsible for administering elections. Her department maintains a database of all registered voters, certifies the voting systems used in each county and provides guidance to county offices. Recent changes in state law now permit no-excuse mail-in ballots (MIB) for the first time. Five federal lawsuits have been filed by Republicans, Democrats and conservative groups. On August 7, Pennsylvania's League of Women Voters made it six. Although the League endorses universal MIBs as an enhancement to democracy, it nevertheless complains that "the administration of Pennsylvania’s vote-by-mail system retains a critical flaw that now is likely to affect many more Pennsylvania voters: lack of a mandatory notice and cure process for missing signatures or perceived mismatches between an application’s and a ballot’s signature. The lack of any guidance from the Secretary of the Commonwealth has led to variation among Pennsylvania counties as to whether, and how, voters are provided notice and an opportunity to cure problems related to ballot signatures. Voters have a due process right to such notice and opportunity to cure, and an equal protection right to a uniform statewide procedure for counting mail-in ballots that is applied regardless of the county in which the voter resides and casts their ballot." As of yesterday, the state has filed no answer. The suit names neither Northampton nor Lehigh County as Defendants. This might be because locally, our elections offices do attempt to notify voters who fail to sign their ballots. I have contacted both offices, and this is what they tell me.

Lehigh County Registrar Timothy Benyo: "Any returned envelope without a signature get isolated. Voters will receive a personal letter & their ballot with instructions on how to remedy their issue. If time until the deadline is short and the mail will not get to them before the deadline, we will use the additional information provided from the application or their record (phone, email) to contact them."

Northampton County Registrar Amy Cozze: "We check to make sure that 1. There is a signature, and 2. That it is the correct name. If either of these requirements are not met, the voter is contacted, and the ballot is returned to the voter so they have an opportunity to correct the error. We err on the side of the voter as default, and would never frivolously deny someone the right to vote. Personally I know the signature on file for me is not even remotely similar to how I now sign my name, as is the case with most of the voting public. Our solicitor has assured us that we are meeting the standards of the law with this practice, it is also how I have directed our poll workers in trainings in regard to signature verification. I hope this helps."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Vote in person unless disabled, military, and only one or two other reasons. We should be glad we aren't subject to attacks by militants with AK47's and suicide bombings and.... Next, vote by smart TV with remote in hand. Click on a few pictures, like Palm Trees, or Motorcycles and get the ole checkbox icon, good to vote.

Anonymous said...

What??? If the hand writing don't match - tough luck - no second chance.