Orange County Republican Party Chair Charles Hart got a taste of frustration some voters might experience trying to authenticate their identities by signing electronic tablets in polling places.
Hart said that when he tried to sign in Tuesday at a voting station in Windermere, he nearly got rejected, based on a poll worker’s assessment that his signature requesting a ballot didn’t look like, well, his signature.
Now Hart is sending warnings to other voters in Orange County, particularly Republicans: If they run into the same problem, Orange County’s Grand Old Party wants to hear about it and has lawyers ready to get involved if needed.
If the signature on the electronic screen doesn’t look right, voters always get the chance to try again, and so did Hart.
He figured maybe the tilt of the screen messed up his writing. Or maybe the stylus he signed with didn’t press quite right. So he cleared the screen and signed again. Poll workers still weren’t convinced though, he said. He offered his driver’s license, with his signature on it, and a picture of Charles Hart.
“They literally said, ‘I don’t know about this one,'” Hart recalled Tuesday afternoon. “They actually had another lady come over to look. And they were like, ‘Well, can you do it again?’
“I said, ‘No! That’s my signature!'” Hart recalled.
The experience has left him wondering how even a fully trained poll worker might become expert enough in comparing signatures to potentially stop people from voting.
Hart’s signature is pretty distinctive, starting with a swooping “C-h” and ending with an “II” as in “Charles Hart the Second.” He said he has not changed it since high school.
“They kept hemming and hawing, and I said, ‘I want a provisional ballot.’ And at that point they were like, ‘Well, I guess the “C-h” looks the same.'”
So he got to vote.
Shortly afterward, though, Hart began sending out warning messages on social media, with, “URGENT! ATTENTION!”, telling followers what happened to him; and advising that if it happens to them, first they should be tough and demand their rights to vote, and then he wants them to contact the Republican Party.
“I’m urging them to,” Hart said. “Every vote counts.”
“Do not let bureaucrats tell you YOU CANNOT VOTE!” Hart wrote, adding, “do not think it cannot happen to you because it did to me…”
Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said disputes over signatures are always possible when someone’s requesting a ballot. But he said they do not come up very often, and certainly no more often with the electronic signature tablets in use in recent years than back in the days of paper-and-pen sign-ins. Cowles said there are several layers of checks that should allow voters to prove themselves, including the photo ID, ultimately leading to the prospect of a provisional ballot if poll workers remain unconvinced.
Cowles expressed concern, though, to hear that Hart had to go through several steps, and said he would look into the incident.
“I’m glad to hear they gave him his ballot; that’s the good news,” Cowles said.