Election supervisors are reminding Floridians: Signatures change over time.
Some 6.5 million voters in Florida have signatures on file that are more than five years old, according to Clay Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless.
And that can cause problems.
“Regardless of your method of voting, your signature is always compared to what we have on file,” said Chambless.
Poll workers and ballot examiners compare the signatures from a forensic standpoint.
“How individuals start their letters, or start their signature, the way the peaks, the valleys, the leans of the letters, and how they complete their signatures are all forensic indicators,” said Chambless.
The process of how signatures are verified was made uniform across the state after the 2000 presidential election, according to Chambless. Then in 2016 a judge ruled ballots with mismatched signatures cannot simply be thrown out, as was the practice before.
When someone’s signature doesn’t match up, it triggers headaches for both the voter and the county.
If a voter cast a ballot by mail, a county’s election office would contact the voter, preferably by phone, or oftentimes by email or mail. Then the voter has to complete a signature match affidavit, along with a picture of their photo and signature ID.
If a signature doesn’t match up at a voting precinct, the voter is instead given a provisional ballot, which still records the vote but the vote isn’t counted until a voter’s eligibility is confirmed.
Chambless said in the case of a provisional ballot the signature would go before a county judge, county commissioner chair and the supervisor of elections. Those representatives also go through a forensic signature class to help them determine whether a ballot can be legally counted.
The Clay County Supervisor of Elections office has found a variety of factors lead to signatures changing; like aging, fatigue, haste, a purposeful change in writing style or an injury.
“It doesn't matter whether we receive 10,000 vote-by-mail ballots or 45,000 vote-by-mail ballots, which is a normal average for a presidential year. Or, you know, 100,000 voters at the polls. Each one of those signatures are being compared to the to the latest signature that we have on file," he said.
During the 2018 election, 268 ballots were inititally tossed in Duval County over signature issues. A signature battle was also triggered due to the close race between former U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and now-incumbant U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL).
Clay County voters can update their signatures this weekend at the Orange Park Fall Festival. The Clay County Supervisor of Elections office will have a booth at the festival where people can also register to vote, make party changes or check their registration status.
The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Town of Orange Park Town Hall at 2042 Park Avenue. Additional information about the festival is available here.
Residents not going to the festival or in other counties can call their local supervisor of elections during normal business hours for additional information about signatures or other voter questions:
- Baker County: 904-259-6339 | website
- Clay County: 904-269-6350 | website
- Duval County: (904) 630-1414 | website
- Flagler County: 386-313-4170 | website
- Nassau County: 904-491-7500 | website
- St. Johns County: 904-823-2238 | website
Florida also has a statewide voter registration system that voters can use to register or update their voting status.
Florida's presidential primary is March 17, 2020, followed by the primary election on August 18, 2020, and the general election on November 3, 2020.