Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz proposes that we use some kind of electronic scanning system to evaluate voter signatures. I have no idea how good signature comparison software is these days, but I do I know that my own signature isn’t very consistent. Would automatic signature matching software really work well enough to recognize that all of my signatures are mine while rejecting forgeries? I’m skeptical. If one person’s absentee ballot is incorrectly rejected because someone or some software thinks their signature does not match, that would seem to me to be a violation of that voter’s civil rights. If signature matching has a higher likelihood of failing for one group of people than for another, then signature verification can be said to systematically deny voting rights to that group.
Would this put senior citizens with shaky handwriting at risk?
How about young people who no longer learn cursive in school?
How about immigrants whose native language doesn’t use the Roman alphabet?
I have the following suggestion: If signature verification is put in place, whether using human or computerized judging, the government should be required to immediately notify any voter of a signature rejection, to offer that voter a chance to prove that the ballot was indeed theirs, and to reimburse that voter for all costs incurred by the voter in proving that the ballot was theirs.
I see nothing wrong with requiring payment for travel, postage, phone calls, notary service, photocopies or lost wages. If the government denies these costs, then some voters will be disenfranchised because they cannot afford to contest the signature mismatch.
I also suggest that the secretary of state test his signature verification system on the state legislature. Each legislator should have exactly one chance to sign a test form, and the signatures on those forms should be matched against signatures scanned from forms already on file in the Statehouse.
There should be some forgeries included in the test — perhaps the Democratic staff should be allowed to sign in the names of Republican legislators, and vice versa.
How many legislators will be rejected?
How many forgeries will be accepted?
The results should be made public.
Original Post at the Iowa Press Citizen: Some modest proposals for voter signature verification | Iowa City Press Citizen | press-citizen.com.