Senator McGuire’s ‘Every Vote Counts’ Bill Passes Legislature, heading to the Governor’s desk

SB 759 will allow voters to fix mismatching signatures to ensure their ballots are counted

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sacramento, CA – A strong democracy depends on a voter’s belief that their vote counts.

However, in California, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, over 25,000 residents had their ballots thrown away and not counted in the November 2016 General Election cycle.

These 25,000 mail ballots were thrown out because of a mismatching signature — the voter’s signature on their ballot did not match what was in their file.

While mismatching signatures can occur for a number of reasons, there is no law that mandates local election officials notify voters that their ballot will be tossed, or provide them with an opportunity to correct the mistake.

SB 759 establishes the process for election officials to notify voters when their Vote By Mail signature mismatches the one on file. Specifically, this bill requires elections officials to notify voters of a mismatching signature at least 8 days prior to the certification of an election, and give the voters an opportunity to verify their signature.

It’s a principle of our democracy — every vote counts,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “Unfortunately, we have come to find out this old adage doesn’t always ring true. Tens of thousands of votes are thrown out without any notification to the individual voter here in California because of a discrepancy with their signature. We’ve been grateful to work with Secretary Padilla, the ACLU and local election officials to ensure all votes count here in the Golden State.”

“A vibrant democracy requires that voters have faith in our electoral system,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “Our signatures may change over time, but that shouldn’t jeopardize our right to have our votes counted. SB 759 will provide voters an opportunity to correct a signature mismatch on their mail ballot, so they can be assured that their votes are counted. SB 759 is also critical to ensuring that California voters can take full advantage of the conveniences of voting by mail.”

According to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union last year, California ballots went uncounted because elections officials determined the voter’s signature on the Vote By Mail ballot didn’t match the voter’s signature on file. To make matters worse, residents whose votes were not tallied did not get notified and had no way of correcting their action, let alone casting their ballot in an election.

There are a number of reasons why a signature may not match. For example:

  • A person may have a disability
  • The voter’s ability may change or make it difficult to match the signature because of a shaky hand
  • A different member of the household – such as a spouse or a caretaker – may sign
  • A voter’s signatures can change or evolve over time
  • Or the person, such as someone whose second language is English, may be unaware that they have to sign their ballot the same way as it is on file, and sign in the characters of a non-English alphabet.

 

SB 759 is supported by California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and passed Tuesday in the Senate on a two-thirds vote. The bill is now on its way to the Governor’s desk.

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