Commentary: Some Absentee Ballots Cast Out

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, February 15, 2008

Like millions of other California voters, my mother voted absentee in last week’s presidential primary. Because she’s blind, I fill out her ballot according to her very precise instructions, and she signs it.

I know signatures on ballots are checked against those on file at the registrar’s office, so I worried. Would my mother’s late in life blind woman’s scrawl match the signature she used to register so many years ago when she could see? Would her vote be counted?

Because she had moved and re-registered recently, my mother’s signature did match, but county elections officials told me more than five thousand mail-in ballots had been rejected. Close to 600 were tossed because signatures did not match. Another 750 or so because there were no signatures, and more than three thousand because voters had forgotten to include their addresses or had the wrong address.

Almost three percent of the total mail-in ballots cast in Sacramento County were rejected. If three percent of all absentee ballots cast statewide were thrown out, that would be 123,000 votes not counted. Think about it. In a close election, that could be a bigger deal than all the hanging chads in Florida.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.