Mr. Curiel, reporter for Napa Patch, thank you for contacting me. Per your phone message which I just received, you have information from the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters that there may be an issue with the signature on vote by mail ballots returned by voters who registered on the new Secretary of State online voter registration system which was implemented in early September 2012. The issue you relayed is that the signature on the vote by mail ballot return envelope is not matching the signature pulled from DMV records through the online voter registration system and transferred to the individual counties.
You asked if this was an issue in Napa County and whether I thought this might have statewide implications.
To answer your excellent questions let me briefly describe our process for handling challenged signatures. As you are aware every return vote by mail envelope is compared to the signature captured from the paper voter registration affidavit or the online registration transmission. In our county human eyes make that determination. In some counties optical character reading devices make the initial comparison.
If a signature is challenged by the first set of eyes because they do not believe the signatures match, those ballots are held as challenged. At that point another staff member who has been reviewing challenged signatures for several elections takes a fresh look at the signature. If that staff member still believes the signature needs further review, then I personally review each challenged signature. If I cannot find enough evidence to remove the challenge, that ballot remains challenged and uncounted. After the election we send a letter to each voter whose signature led to an invalid ballot giving them the opportunity to reregister with their current signature so that the challenge will not happen in the next election.
Our election management system does show which voters registered on the new online voter registration system. Thus I have asked our experienced staff person to check whether there is any pattern of problems with signatures received from DMV on the new system. I have reviewed some challenged signatures already. Of the five ballots that I have left challenged, none of those were from the online registration system, i.e. the signatures in our system were from scanned, paper registration affidavits.