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Voters notified if signatures don't match

I have never had a ballot signature challenged, but it strikes me that a layer deeper, there could be a problem. When I turned 65 and registered for Medicare, I traded my given middle name for my maiden name. I then started signing only my first initial and my last name because my whole new name fits in zero computer forms. I assume that since my ballots have never been singled out for questions, I'm signing correctly, and that the paperwork I filed when I signed up for Medicare has gotten into the record where it needs to be. If you think not, where would I check?

— Darlene, Portland

No news is generally good news when it comes to whether your signature is valid on your ballot, Darlene.

Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker said a voter will receive a notification letter if the signature on a voter registration card doesn't match the signature on a ballot. The voter then has 14 days after an election to remedy the issue by providing a signature.

People who forget to sign their ballots also will be notified and given a chance to have their votes counted, Walker said.

It's not clear whether the signature you provided to Medicare is being used by elections workers to verify your signature.

Walker said elections workers in Multnomah County, where you are registered, may be looking at key characteristics in the initial for your first name plus your full last name to decide whether your signature matches what they have on file.

Workers are trained to look at how people lead into a letter, how they come out of a signature, the height of letters, the connectors between letters and other writing mannerisms, she said.

Even if you are only signing the initial of your first name plus your last name, many of those mannerisms will still be visible, Walker said.

For example, you could have a distinctive way in which you write the letter "D" for your first name, and that could be a marker, she said.

A former Oregon State Police forensic signature examiner provides the training elections workers need to examine signatures, she said.

Walker said she doesn't know the process followed by Multnomah County, where you are registered, but in Jackson County every ballot signature is examined by at least one person and up to four people.

If the first person can't verify the signature, it goes to a second person for review. If it still can't be verified, the signature goes to a full-time staff person who can examine the signature more closely and even pull up the voter's history of signatures. A supervisor — the fourth person in the chain — could also take a look before a decision is made to send the voter a notification letter about a signature problem, Walker said.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.