DETECTING FRAUDULENT VOTER SIGNATURES IN ILLINOIS
by Meg, DefendtheVote.com, ©2013
At a Chicago Board of Elections meeting held on August 20th, the Commissioners expressed concerns over adding signature verification to the training that election judges receive. “I’m also concerned on the flip side where judges will challenge people without any basis because over a period of years […] signatures change,” Commissioner Cowen remarked. This is a valid concern, and there are many circumstances where a person’s signature can change over the years; from arthritis to developing better penmanship.
But having a margin for error doesn’t mean the question should never be asked, especially when verifying your identity is as simple as taking out your driver’s license.
Training our election judges in signature verification could help them feel confident when they question a voter’s signature; a security measure that the Chicago Board of Elections doesn’t seem to want to encourage. “A little knowledge could be dangerous,” Commissioner Neal cautioned Sharon Meroni of Defend the Vote. “I’m concerned we might empower these judges to think they have that ability with a five minute course.”
But as Sharon Meroni noted in the meeting, election judges already have the right and responsibility to question a voter if their signatures don’t match up. What they don’t have is the training to do it effectively.
“In a three hour training course, we couldn’t give more than five minutes to handwriting comparison skills and techniques,” Commissioner Neal told Sharon Meroni of Defend the Vote. As Commissioner Neal also noted, a five minute crash course on signature comparison could do more harm than good… Or could it?
ehow.com offers a variety of tips and tricks to recognize fraudulent signatures, such as measuring the length of both signatures. This is effective because a person’s signature tends to remain the same length, even if the handwriting changes. Using a magnifying glass to look at how the letters T, I, and J are written can be useful in spotting a forgery, and the simple technique of holding both signatures up to a light can help spot inconsistencies in the flow, brush strokes, length, and overall look. While knowing these tips won’t make anyone an expert, it would prepare our election judges far better than knowing nothing at all.
“They have the ability to use their common sense, their reasoning ability, that they have now. But to say now that we’re telling judges that they’re experts in signature comparison; I think that would be dangerous.” Commissioner Neal was worried about the inconvenience that could be posed to the voter should election judges receive more training, but it seems far more dangerous to trust an election judge’s reasoning ability when they haven’t been given any training to recognize bad signatures.
It’s like giving a man the tools to fish without teaching him how to use them; yeah, he can probably figure out how to do it on his own, but a lot of those fish are going to get away.
Teaching election judges to recognize fraudulent signatures is one possible solution, but the long-term answer to this problem is obvious: asking for ID at the polls. Many active voters carry their driver’s license or state ID when they leave the house, and those who don’t have a DMV-verified ID would be eligible to receive a voter ID card. Until Illinois follows in the footsteps of states like Florida, Michigan, and Indiana, our vote will be more vulnerable to fraud than is necessary; but a little bit of training can still go a long way.
View the video and read the rest here.