Gephardt: If Your Ballot Signature Doesn’t Match, Will Your Vote Count?

Oct 12, 2020, 10:21 PM | Updated: Oct 13, 2020, 12:10 am

SUMMARY: When you vote by mail, the election office knows it’s you based on your signature. But what if your signature has changed? KSL’s Matt Gephardt investigated the process of validating your vote so you can make sure your vote counts.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – We are less than a month away from election day and ballots will start arriving in Utah mailboxes this week. But as Utahns get ready to cast their votes, there is an important thing they need to know to make sure their vote counts.

If you plan to vote by mail, election officials will verify your identity by looking at your signature. Election officials compare the signature on your ballot to the one you have on file with the state, likely from your driver’s license.

Mail-in ballots from past elections at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office. (KSL-TV)

The KSL Investigators were given access to the secure voting area run by the Salt Lake County Clerk to see the process.

When ballots come in, they are sorted by one of two Audience Response Systems machines. During the sorting, every ballot is scanned by the machine, which compares signatures.

Salt Lake County Chief Deputy Clerk Lannie Chapman said the machine is programmed to be picky.

Salt Lake County Chief Deputy Clerk Lannie Chapman points to a camera that scans signatures on Utahns’ ballots. (KSL-TV)

“If the signature does not look like an identical match, it does reject it, and it has to go to human eyes,” she said.

Those checks are done digitally. A photo of the ballot signature is paired with the signature on file and both are sent to a clerk staffer for further review.

Each ballot is scanned by one of two Audience Response Systems machines to make sure signatures match. (KSL-TV)

Chapman told KSL the machine has been known to flag as many as 70% of ballots for signatures that do not match. Chapman said it is virtually never fraud. Most of the time it is the actual voter who signed their affidavit, but the signature was just a bit off.

Studies, like one published in the Journal of Forensic Science, show that with age, “there is decline in cognitive and sensorimotor function affecting fine motor control.”

In English, people’s signatures change over time.

Other votes are nulled after honest mistakes, like a husband who signed his wife’s ballot by accident. In those cases, a new ballot is mailed out, time permitting, or the voter is told to head to a polling place and vote in-person, Chapman said.

People’s signatures change over time, and some ballots are rejected after honest mistakes. (KSL-TV)

Election officials go through training and are given tools to compare signatures. They can usually tell whether the person who signed is the voter.

“We know when you do a loop, where you might pause or where you don’t pause,” she said.

Either way, they err on the side of caution and follow-up with any voters whose signatures match less than 90%.

“When your signature does not match the signature that we have in your voter records, we will send you a cure letter,” Chapman said. “That cure letter will say, ‘Hey, your signature does not match. You have a chance to cure this to still be able to have your voice counted, to have your ballot counted.’”

All ballots must be in by election day, but election officials can continue to verify signatures until the end of the canvas period, which in 2020 is November 17.

A Salt Lake County drop-off ballot box. (KSL-TV)

If your signature does not match and it isn’t straightened out by then, your vote will not be counted. If that gives you pause, vote early or vote in-person.

Chapman encouraged people to vote by mail saying her office is “very confident in the system.”

Chapman said if an instance arose where fraud was suspected, the matter would be handed over to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office.

KSL 5 TV Live

Matt Gephardt

In the moment they feel like small purchases, right? An ornament here. A stocking stuffer there. A ...

Matt Gephardt

How you can avoid holiday debt despite the pressure to spend

In the moment they feel like small purchases, right? An ornament here. A stocking stuffer there. A last-minute office gift. But all this can quickly add up to a financial holiday hangover. And perhaps it’s one you’re still feeling from the last holiday season.

3 days ago

Debra Gamero teaches a student...

Matt Gephardt

The insurance you didn’t know you needed to protect your side hustle

Having a side hustle to bring in extra cash requires determination and hard work. But if you do it without the right insurance policy, you might find an unexpected event could blow up your side hustle along with your finances.

11 days ago

AI photo...

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage

Thieves using AI generated images in romance scams, how you can spot the fake people

Artificial intelligence has made looking for love online even more complicated. Crooks are using AI tools to create fake people to steal money and personal info from real people using dating apps and social media.

16 days ago

A Holladay woman received a water bill for over $7,000. After contacting the provider, it wasn't mu...

Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Homeowner gets $7K water bill for water she says she didn’t use

Imagine opening your mailbox to find a water bill demanding several thousand dollars for just one month’s use of water. It happened to a Holladay woman, she decided to Get Gephardt.

17 days ago

A 2021 survey from found that 41% of American adults say going into debt during the...

Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: The credit pitfalls of maxing out your credit cards for holiday shopping

A 2021 survey from found that 41% of American adults say going into debt during the holidays is worth it to make sure there are presents under the tree.

19 days ago

(KSL TV)...

Matt Gephardt

Gehardt busts inflation: How much can you save by buying in bulk?

It's likely that most of us if not all, are trying to find ways to make our household budgets go further.

23 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

Gephardt: If Your Ballot Signature Doesn’t Match, Will Your Vote Count?