Sherry Hall responds to signature verification article
This column is in response to the article dated Oct. 4 and headlined: "Elections offices reject votes due to â€˜non-matching' signatures" that was published in the Clackamas Review.
I find it necessary to correct some factual errors and erroneous assumptions so that voters are not misinformed about our procedures for verifying ballot signatures.
Rather than offering a balanced and factual account of the process, your story came across as politically motivated, in no small part because it quoted prominently a candidate for clerk and from the chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon's Elections Integrity Caucus.
There is no indication from the story that anyone from the Republican Party was asked for comment.
I and my staff strive daily to keep politics out of the Clackamas County Elections Office. Our work is process oriented, not politically oriented.
Did you investigate any of the information used in your article? The Vote by Mail Manual can be found online at sos.oregon.gov/voting-elections.
The following claims in the story are either flatly wrong or inaccurate.
? In paragraph 1, the story mentioned voters who thought it "weird" to get a letter saying that the signatures didn't match. Those names were checked again and, for sure, those signatures were completely different than the signature on the registration card. I am confident rejection was appropriate. Unfortunately, we are unable to share signatures with anyone outside of those working for the Elections Office to prove this fact. Per Vote by Mail Manual: "Unaccepted ballot envelopes (did not get past signature verification step) challenged ballot forms (must remain confidential)."
? In paragraph 3 it says, voters who don't respond are "kicked off" as referenced in the story. Instead, voters are inactivated. As follow-up they are sent a Voter Confirmation Card informing them of their status and they are free to re-register, immediately if they so choose. If the voter ignores these notifications and wants to vote in the next election, they can come into the Elections Office up through 8 p.m. Election Night, re-register and get a ballot. (The 21-day registration rule for new Oregon voters does not apply to that inactivated voter)
? In paragraph 7, the story indicates that if signatures match, the ballot will be counted. A new registration card with non-matching signature is VERY rare.
? In paragraph 23 the article states "there are approximately equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats in Clackamas County" - that simply is not true. The report (which comes directly off the Oregon Centralized Voters Registration) shows that there were 97,339 registered Democrats which is quite a bit higher than the 82,912 registered Republicans, a difference of 14,427 more Democrats than Republicans in the November 2016 election. 86,218 Democrats cast a ballot and 74,592 Republicans cast a ballot, a difference of 11,626 more Democrats than Republicans who voted in that election.
? Raymond's article states that 343 Democrats and 293 Republicans had mismatched signatures in November 2016. That amounts to 0.398 percent of the Democratic ballots and 0.393 percent of the Republican ballots. In other words, the difference between the two is .005 percent or about one ballot in each 20,000 ballots received.
? In May '17 the mismatched signatures (according to Raymond's article) totalled 113 Democrats and 80 Republicans. That is 0.435 percent of the 25,992 ballots received from Democratic voters and 0.404 percent of the 19,806 ballots received from Republican voters. The difference is .031 percent or about one ballot in every 3,300 received. 6,186 more Democrats than Republicans voted in the May 2017 election.
? In paragraph 24 the name was checked again and, for sure, that signature was completely different than the signature on the registration card. I am confident rejection was appropriate. Unfortunately we are unable to share signatures with anyone outside of elections or the voter to prove this fact. I can assure you that gender does not play a role in signature verification.
? In paragraph 34 the article mentioned that the "closest thing to voter fraud" was a case where a husband and wife signed each other's ballot envelope. His description is not how the system works. If spouses sign each other's ballot envelopes, we are able to accept and tally both ballots, as authorized in Vote by Mail Manual on page 45 and attached above.
? In paragraph 35 - Department of Justice must be deleted because they are a resource only for SOS, not for Oregon county clerks.
Sherry Hall is the county's election clerk, a nonpartisan position to which she has been elected by Clackamas County voters. At the time she submitted this column, the registered Republican had not yet announced whether she will run for re-election.