Voters will now be able to fix mismatching signatures to ensure their ballots are counted
Sacramento, CA – The November 2018 midterm election is going to be one of the most important elections in a generation. With just 50 days to go, Governor Brown has signed a landmark bill into law that will preserve the votes of thousands of Californians at the ballot box.
Effective immediately, 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.
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 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, until now there has never been a law that mandates local election officials notify voters that their ballot will be tossed, or provide them with an opportunity to correct the mistake.
“The stakes could not be higher. Voters on all sides of the political aisle will be turning out in droves for the November election and this new law will ensure all votes count here in the Golden State on November 6,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “We’ve been grateful to work with Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the ACLU and local election officials to see this important bill through.”
“A majority of California voters already cast vote-by-mail ballots each election,” said Secretary of State Padilla. “For many voters, signatures may change over time or disabilities may make it difficult to sign the ballot properly. SB 759 ensures that voters have a chance to remedy a signature mismatch on their mail ballot. Once again California is taking steps to improve the elections experience for voters. I thank Governor Brown for signing this measure in time for the upcoming election and affirming voter’s fundamental right to have their ballots counted.”
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 was signed today by Governor Jerry Brown. This bill was adopted with an urgency clause (which also received bipartisan support) to ensure it becomes law prior to this critical November election.