With concerns about voter fraud this election, there is heightened interest in how signatures on ballots are verified.
In Santa Clara County, ballots are verified manually by 17 members of election staff.
When ballots arrive at the Registrar of Voters Office in San Jose, they are sorted and photos are taken of every signature on each envelope.
A staff member then compares the signature images with what the voter has on file, from registering to vote, the DMV, and other public records.
If staff discovers an inconsistency, the ballot is then sent to election staff who’ve received forensic signature verification training.
That team carefully examines the signature’s loops, dots, dashes and slants.
One ballot was flagged while NBC Bay Area watched.
“Instead of a normal signature, the person just put their initial,” said Pam Hamilton, Santa Clara County election process supervisor of the Vote-by-Mail Division. “Nothing looked the same.”
Signatures that don't match are then sent to election supervisors who decide whether or not to send a letter to the voter asking for a second signature, to verify the ballot. So far, the county has sent out 266 letters to people who’ve already voted.
Many people often sign their name in different ways, to what Hamilton said, “The loops and the slants are still the same, so it would be counted as a ‘yes.’”
Non-matching signatures are fairly rare. The more common problem is that voters forget to sign their ballot, or they print their name instead of using cursive, which requires signature verification.
But even if residents do get a notification, even after Election Day, their vote will still be counted if they send the form back with a signature by Dec. 1.