Do the tops of your capital “M’s” look like pointed peaks or are they round? How loopy are your lowercase letters? Does your writing slant to the right or left?
These questions and others are posed in handwriting analysis used by the Johnson County Election Office when determining the validity of a signature on mail-in ballots.
Currently, voter signatures on the $82.4 million Spring Hill School District mail-ballot bond election are being scanned and compared to the signatures on school district patron’s voter registration cards.
The Spring Hill Board of Education is seeking funds to increase high school, middle school and elementary school capacity for an estimated 1,500 new students over the next five years. Ballots must be mailed by Sept. 6 to meet the election deadline. The deadline is noon Sept. 8.
The process of marking a mail-in ballot requires the envelop must be signed. If the mail-in ballot signatures don’t match the voter’s registration card signatures, the ballots may not be counted, said Ronnie Metsker, election commissioner.
“Not signing the ballot or having a signature that doesn’t match the voter’s signature on their voter registration card are two reasons the ballots may not be counted,” he said.
Metsker said several staff members have undergone handwriting analysis training with a forensic document examiner and handwriting expert. They have subsequently trained other Johnson County Election Office staff members in handwriting analysis.
Handwriting analysis has been used in recent mail-in ballot elections, including three special elections this year. Last year Johnson County held its largest mail-in election, when about 330,000 ballots were sent to Johnson County voters asking for approval to extend the local option budget to support local school districts.
Lisa Schlueter, election manager, said the primary reason signatures don’t match the voter’s registration card is that one spouse signed the ballot for another spouse or other family member.
“That is usually the case,” she said. “We can tell when we match the signature to the spouse’s voter registration card,” she said. She said most people who signed for someone else were probably just unaware of the guidelines.
In the August primary election, less than 1 percent of the 11,528 ballots cast by mail were not counted because of a signature problem, Metsker said.
From three to 16 staff members can be involved in scanning and comparing signatures, depending on the size of the election, Metsker said. He added that conducting a mail-in ballot election is not cheaper than holding a traditional special election. The cost of both is paid for by the city or school district holding the special election.
“With the cost of postage, paper and printing the special envelope the cost is about the same,” he said. Instructions on how to vote a paper ballot are included on the election commission’s website at www.jocoelection.org.