Absentee Voters Left Waiting as County Reviews Signatures
Published October 30th, 2012
GAINESVILLE - It's commonly thought of as a way to avoid the lines on Election Day. But for two Alachua County voters who contacted TV20, absentee ballots have caused more of a headache than anything else.
Gainesville residents Chris Bilowich and Jennifer Goldman both requested to vote absentee in this year's election; for each, it was their first time ever voting absentee. After sending their completed ballots back to the county Supervisor of Elections office two weeks ago, both registered voters thought everything was fine. That is, until they each received a letter in the mail from the Supervisor of Elections, stating that their signature on the absentee ballot did not match the signature on record.
After explaining that the signature was indeed his own, Bilowich says he was told by employees at the office that he had no additional recourse. Both Bilowich and Goldman now have no choice but to wait for their signatures to be cleared by the county's canvassing board, which settles any disputes or mistakes made on absentee ballots.
Even though both voters say the signatures in question are their own, there is still no guarantee that their ballots will be accepted. "If I can't go into an election office, and confirm that it was my signature on an absentee ballot. If somebody else is going to make the decision that that's my signature, there's something wrong with that scenario," says Bilowich.
Alachua County's Supervisor of Elections, Pam Carpenter, says the process of checking signatures is nothing new, as it is required by state law every year. She adds that in each case of a disputed signature, the voter will have to wait for a final decision from the canvassing board as to whether or not their ballot will be approved, and their votes will count. "The canvassing board is the only one who makes a decision on not accepting a ballot," says Carpenter. In order to avoid any problems in the future, Carpenter says anyone planning on voting absentee should update their signatures before casting a ballot. Although both Bilowich and Goldman say they updated all their information earlier this year.
Carpenter says there actually a fewer number of ballots being reviewed so far this year. Out of the 16,000 absentee ballots that have been requested, 137 will be reviewed by the canvassing board.
If you or someone you know may be having the same problem with an absentee signature, you can file a claim with the Fair Elections Legal Network by visiting their website, www.fairelectionsnetwork.com.
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