So, this voter and I were having a conversation this past Tuesday. The signature from his voter registration form doesn’t match what’s on his license. Hence a little chat.
Now, as an election official, I’ve experienced some hours of training for the study and verification of signatures. In states like mine with mail voting, this is one way we can verify we have an authentic ballot in our hands: examining how the person signs her or his name. A signature doesn’t have to be neat, but it does need to be consistent.
Signatures do evolve over time. For many people, a ten-year gap can be significant. But honest and skilled election officials can make reasonable determinations.
Back to my conversation partner on Tuesday: he confesses to me he varies his signature frequently. He also admitted he has been contacted in the past when he’s mailed in his ballot.
As an artist, I can appreciate the indulgence for personal expression. As a blogger, for contrariness.
And yet …
When conducting your business as a voter, this is the time for a reasonable adherence to form. I told my conversation partner that he can continue to “vary” how he signs his name. His credit card company or the pad at his grocery store or doctor’s office–these won’t care. But lacking a photo id when his mail or absentee ballot arrives at the election office, it will get flagged as worrisome. Some officials in some states might be instructed to reject the ballot. Others will devote some seconds or a few minutes to figuring it out. And they may come to the same conclusion as those “some officials” elsewhere. In instance one, voter suppression. In two, a bit of wasted time for people who are trying to get every vote counted.
Where your signature is concerned, here is my suggestion for protecting your vote in the future:
Have a signature that reasonably presents your name with some clarity. Be as creative as you desire, but use it when you vote, if no other time. If you have had problems with your ballot in the past, pay particular attention, especially of you’ve been contacted by the county about an irregularity. It is worth the extra five seconds it takes to sign a reasonably legible name instead of a squiggly line.