Serving Franklin County, WA

Bill updates ballot signature verification rules

OLYMPIA — A bill written to reduce the number of rejected ballots in elections is on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee's desk.

Signature verification is done to curtail fraud in mail-in ballots. But, state officials say, too often people change the way they sign their name or they don’t sign their ballot at all. That results in a rejection of their ballot.

Sen. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle, introduced Senate Bill 5890 after reviewing statistics on ballot rejection rates. The bill received unanimous approval in both the House and Senate and now awaits the Inslee's signature.

Valdez said his statistics show minority and younger voters are most likely to have their ballots rejected.

Ballot rejection rates among black voters are 50% higher than white voters, he said. Latino and Asian voters are also much more likely than white voters to have their ballots rejected. 

“If you are a younger voter between 18 and 25, in 2022, there was a 5% chance that your ballot had been rejected," Valdez said. "If you are 46 to 65 years old, your percentage was 0.8%.” 

Valdez said minority voters are also less likely to sign their envelope.

If signed by the governor, Senate Bill 5890 will require election documents be available in English, Spanish and any language required by the federal Voting Rights Act. It also requires county auditors to contact voters by phone or email if their ballot still needs to be signed or if the signature doesn't match the one on file.

Currently, they are required to use first-class mail to contact voters.

The bill further instructs the Secretary of State to create consistent rules statewide for verifying and to develop a training manual on applying the rules. 


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