Analysis

Oregon Vote-by-Mail Process Scrutinized

The way in which local election officials verify signatures on mail ballots in Oregon, where elections are conducted entirely by mail, and the guidance the state provides to the counties were the subjects of a recent legal challenge.

During the November 2014 election, about 13,000 voters (out of 1.5 million statewide) submitted ballots with signatures that did not match their voter registration cards. These voters were given the opportunity to fix the problem within 14 days after the election. Roughly 8,600 responded, matched their signatures, and had their ballots counted. However, about 4,600 did not return corrected signatures, and their ballots were not counted.

The suit, which was denied by the court, alleged that some of those uncounted ballots were improperly rejected because:

  • Some voters never received notification their signatures did not match.
  • For some voters with disabilities, their signatures had changed or they had used stamps for their signatures.
  • The secretary of state’s office did not confirm that counties consistently applied the instructions for signature verification.
  • The instructions provided to voters did not state that the signatures had to match in order for the ballots to be counted.

Supporters of Proposition 92, which would have mandated the labeling of genetically modified foods, brought the suit. The race went to an automatic recount, and the lawsuit sought to have the rejected ballots considered for counting before the results were certified. The proposition lost by only 812 votes.

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