Earlier this month there was a flurry of consternation when a council member’s ballot was rejected because of a signature discrepancy, and mutterings about partisans trying to subvert democracy started circulating.
Not to worry.
First, if your ballot has been “challenged,” the county Registrar of Voters (ROV) will get in touch with you immediately so you can fix it. And second, nobody’s partisans get to roam around the vote count challenging ballots at will.
“Observers are not challenging directly and are not rejecting or accepting signatures,” explained ROV Associate Communications Officer Michael Borja. “Observers can question whether the staff is following rules correctly, but it is up to ROV management to make any decisions.”
It is true that Council Member Raj Chahal’s ballot signature was questioned, but that wasn’t done on anyone’s whim. He had signed his familiar “Raj Chahal,” instead of his full name “Rajwant Chahal,” the name the ROV had on file. He has since corrected it.
“They texted me that the ballot was rejected,” Chahal explained. “When I called, they explained that the signature wasn’t my full name. If you give them your cell phone, they will text you right away if there’s a problem.”
Rules for Signature Challenges
There are three reasons ballot envelopes could be marked “challenge,” and sent to the next level for either further investigation and signature correction — “curing.” These reasons are: the signature is missing; the signature doesn’t match what’s on file; or workers can’t clearly identify or verify the signature.
“If the signature can be identified or verified, the envelope is updated with a ‘good’ status,” Borja said.
Otherwise, if the signature is missing or doesn’t match, voters are contacted to submit a new or missing signature.
“The correspondence allows for the voter to cure their signature deficiency within 28 days after election day,” he explained. “Once the ROV receives the voter’s affidavit, the envelope and ballot will be processed accordingly.”
If you vote in person, you may be concerned, as I was, about the quality of the electronic signature that has replaced written signatures in the voter books. After all, we have all seen what our scrawls look like on the signature pads for credit card transactions.
The ROV’s signature pad is significantly better quality and you use a stylus, not your finger. However, to me, it still didn’t look like my written signature.
Borja put my mind at rest about that, too.
“We have a copy of all your signatures on file used throughout the years of voting, and we will compare all your signatures in case one does not match,” he said. “We also have the household signatures in case family members accidentally swap envelopes.”
You can track your vote from the moment it’s mailed to you until it’s counted by signing up at California.ballottrax.net/voter. You can get updates via text and voice. Have questions about ballot security? Read the Registrar of Voters white paper.