Monday, 11 December 2023

Sen. McGuire introduces bill to ensure all votes are counted

SACRAMENTO – A strong democracy depends on a voter’s belief that their vote counts.

However, in California, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, more than 25,000 residents would be shocked to know that their ballots had been thrown away and not counted in the November 2016 General Election cycle.

These 25,000 mail ballots were thrown out because of a mismatching signature — the voter’s signature on their ballot did not match what was in their file.

While mismatching signatures can occur for a number of reasons, there is no law that mandates local election officials notify voters that their ballot will be tossed, or provide them with an opportunity to correct the mistake.

According to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union last year, California ballots went uncounted because elections officials determined the voter’s signature on the Vote By Mail ballot didn’t match the voter’s signature on file.

To make matters worse, residents whose votes were not tallied did not get notified and had no way of correcting their action, let alone casting their ballot in an election.

“It’s a principle of our democracy — every vote counts,” Sen. Mike McGuire said. “Unfortunately, we have come to find out this old adage doesn’t always ring true. Tens of thousands of votes are thrown out without any notification to the individual voter here in California because of a discrepancy with their signature. That’s why we’ve introduced SB 759 with Secretary of State Padilla. This important legislation will establish a streamlined process for election officials across the state to notify voters when their signatures don’t match up and allow them the opportunity to cast their vote.”

There are a number of reasons why a signature may not match. For example:

– A person may have a disability.

– The voter’s ability may change or make it difficult to match the signature because of a shaky hand.

– A different member of the household – such as a spouse or a caretaker – may sign.

– A voter’s signatures can change or evolve over time.

– Or the person, such as someone whose second language is English, may be unaware that they have to sign their ballot the same way as it is on file, and sign in the characters of a non-English alphabet.

SB 759 will establish a process for election officials to notify voters when their Vote By Mail signature mismatches the one on file.

It will also require those voters whose signatures mismatch be given the opportunity to correct the discrepancy so that their votes will be counted.

SB 759 is supported by California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and was approved Tuesday by a 4-1 vote in the Senate Elections Committee.

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