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Voters get notified when ballot signatures don't match

We are very confident in Oregon’s mail-in voting system, but we do have a question. As elderly people, we’re concerned that the signatures we submitted years ago may no longer match the signatures we now have because of frailties such as shaky hands. Is this a problem?

— David G. and Jackie P., Medford.

Ballot signatures that don’t match can be a problem, but Jackson County Elections says it’s a problem they solve by notifying the voter.

According to Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker, the elections office has a signature verification team that inspects the signature on each signed ballot and compares it side-by-side on a computer screen to the signature on file in the state’s voter registration database.

If an inspector can’t verify a signature, it gets reviewed by a second person, according to Walker. If the signature doesn’t pass the second opinion, a full-time elections staff member examines the signature more closely and pulls up the voter’s history of ballot signatures, and occasionally a supervisor quadruple-checks the staff member’s signature call.

If the ballot doesn’t pass those rounds of inspection, the elections office sends a notification letter, and alerts the voter they’ve got 14 days after the election to sort out the issue — typically by signing an updated voter registration card — so their vote can be counted.

“The signature still has to match what’s on the ballot,” Walker said.

If you get a notification, Walker said, “Don’t take it personal.”

“The signature is the test to determine you signed that ballot,” Walker said.

Walker said there’s similar policies and procedures set by the state to remedy other signature-related issues such as voters who forget to sign their ballot before dropping it off, or voters in the same household who inadvertently signed the wrong one. Some of those remedies involve affidavits and other paperwork, so it’s best to avoid the error, but voters are notified and given a similar 14-day window when they happen.

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