A bill introduced to the Florida House Wednesday would remove a signature match burden that voters have found to be discriminatory.
HB 967, filed by Jacksonville Democrat Tracie Davis, changes voter signature match rules, striking the current requirement that a signature match a signature on an identification card. Sen. Audrey Gibson will carry the Senate version of the bill.
The bill comes after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Florida law requiring voters’ signatures on mail-in ballots to match the signatures on file with elections officials imposes “a serious burden on the right to vote.”
Florida Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews said last year 45 counties tossed over 3,700 ballots for signature mismatches.
In close races like the statewide votes on the general election ballot in 2018, these numbers are particularly significant.
And they lead to last-minute moves: former Sen. Bill Nelson got a time extension for voters to cure signatures on vote-by-mail ballots, as he attempted to close the November margin in his re-election bid.
However, curing signatures is not a sustainable solution for election reform advocates.
The American Civil Liberties Union is among the groups that want changes to how supervisors of elections handle the signature match issue.
The ACLU contends that marginalized groups are particularly burdened by signature match requirements, including the homebound elderly voting by mail.
A 2018 study from the ACLU focused on Florida’s high rate of rejected vote-by-mail ballots.
In an age when it otherwise is increasingly easy to verify identity, outmoded signature match rules affect young and minority voters disproportionately.
One in every 25 ballots cast by 18- to 21-year-olds was rejected in 2016, Smith said.
Almost 2 percent of African-Americans and 1.8 percent of Hispanics voting by mail in 2016 found their ballots rejected, incidences that increased from 2012’s benchmark.
Rejection rates vary from county to county. Orange and Miami-Dade are among the rejection leaders.
White voters, meanwhile, saw a decrease in rejections over the four-year interval.
However, demographics are not an absolute protection from bureaucratic disenfranchisement, as former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy attested in November.
Murphy, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016, went to the Palm Beach County website to ensure that his vote was counted
“It’s the same exact signature I used in the primary, same exact signature I’ve always used, same exact signature on my driver’s license,” Murphy said. “And, for whatever reason, it didn’t count this time.”
Murphy said his ballot wasn’t registered as “received” until Election Day, after the signature verification deadline.
February 21, 2019 at 6:09 pm
Signature matching works very well in the 100% mailed out ballots states on CO, OR and WA – and soon UT. If signature verifiers are properly trained, the INITIAL reject rate may indeed be in the 1%- 1.5% range. But then if those ballots move to a bipartisan team of judges, about half are approved. So, you’re down to 0.5% – 0.75%. And then if a proper “cure” process is in place, with multiple ways to cure, and enough time including after Election DAY to do so (usually about a week) the problem gets down in the ).1%-ish noise.
It’s easy to make the observation that well over that number of “poll going” voters either can’t get off work (actually reported as an 11% problem nationally) or have child care issues, or get stuck in long voting lines and leave or something else.
Florida can fix this easily by following the “gold standard” set in Colorado, which was recently named the safest state in the country in which to cast a ballot. And 100% of those ballots are sent to voters in the mail.
http://www.voteathome.org has much more research.
February 23, 2019 at 2:41 pm
What an idiotic item of legislation. Why am I not surprised that it is being championed by Democrats? Those who cannot provide proof of their identity forfeit their right to vote until they can prove it. It is truly not that complicated. Chicago is not the voting venue to emulate.
Girls, you must have more critical and sensible things to do to earn your salaries (funded by taxes paid by others).
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