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Mark Earley Called To Testify In Nelson's Signature Matching Case

Voting Stickers.
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Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Mark Earley will give testimony Wednesday in a case filed by Democratic Senate Candidate Bill Nelson, who wants all votes to count – even those with mismatched signatures.

Nelson’s lawsuit argues votes thrown out statewide for mismatched signatures disproportionally belong to young and minority voters, and should ultimately be counted. Earley admits the signature matching process is subjective, and the staff who perform it don’t have any formal training on handwriting matching.

“We don’t require a prefect signature match. If we can say ‘okay, that loop and that loop over here looks exactly alike. It would be hard to forge that’. And we don’t see any of evidence of fraud anywhere, not any other evidence, but any evidence of fraud, then we will accept the ballot,” Earley says.

Earley says in Leon County, the board also attempts to match multiple signatures on file to the signature on the mail-in ballot. And he says for ballots with mismatched signatures, the Elections Office attempts to get voters to send in another signature to compare before the Election Day deadline.

Earley wants voters to be more careful when signing future mail-in ballots. He says voters need to keep updated signatures on file with the Elections Office - or risk their vote not getting counted.

Earley says, “It’s amazing the amount of bad signatures we see. People need to understand that when they’re signing their certificate on their vote-by-mail ballot, that’s a sworn oath. And that has a lot of repercussions as to whether we count their ballot.”

This year, Leon received about 27,000 vote-by-mail ballots and rejected less than 100 for mismatched or missing signatures.

Eleanor Clark is a recent graduate from Florida State University with degrees in International Affairs and Creative Writing. Before interning at WFSU, she spent time in New York City as the Civic Engagement Coordinator for Columbia University’s high school program. Some of Eleanor’s favorite things are watching the Great British Bake Off, eating soup dumplings, and spending time with her dog, Cooper. Follow her on Twitter: @Nell_Clark_