by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
Below is the public comment I submitted to the North Carolina State Board of Elections in support of signature verification for absentee ballots:
I write in support of having signature verification for absentee ballots in all North Carolina counties.
The two-witness requirement election boards are legally required to use for absentee ballots should not be considered as a substitute for signature matching. The North Carolina State Board of Elections (State Board) says that “state law does not explicitly address the comparison of voter signatures.” However, that is not an excuse for the State Board to adopt the minimum ballot security measures required by state law. They are not mutually exclusive ballot security measures. The witness requirement and signature matching for ballot security are no more mutually exclusive than having an alarm for your home and locking your doors.
Twenty-seven states, including all-mail states such as Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, require signature matching. It has been upheld as constitutional in courts across the country as long as it is used consistently.
The State Board recently rejected the Green Party’s petition to be an official political party in North Carolina. One of the “signs of fraud” the board found was based on an analysis of signatures, including “signatures that clearly appear to be written by the same person.” That contradicts the instructions on absentee ballot signatures in Numbered Memo 2020-19, in which the State Board advised county boards of elections to accept signatures “the signature on the envelope appears to be the name of the voter and not some other person.” The difference in how signatures on the Green Party petition were analyzed from the instructions in Numbered Memo 2020-19 is a tacit admission that the standards the State Board used on absentee ballot signatures in 2020 were insufficient.
If North Carolina implements signature verification, it should be down consistently across the state. The State Board of Elections should issue guidance that all county election boards conduct signature verification. All county election officials who handle absentee ballots should be trained in signature verification. The General Assembly should consider providing county election boards with funds to purchase signature verification software to make the process faster and more consistent.
Ballots not accepted due to signature mismatches should be made provisional to give purported voters an opportunity to have their ballots counted. County boards should notify purported voters if their ballots are made provisional.
The in-text links were added for this post.
Click here to go to the comment portal on absentee ballot signature verification. The portal will remain open through Tuesday, July 5.