Category Archives: Signature verification

Legislative Update

Two terrific new laws and a bill awaiting the fate of the Governor’s pen will affect election officers, voters and the way we conduct elections in California. And in our humble opinion–for the better.

Signed into LAW. AB 1342 (Simitian) Will allow registrars to redraw the precinct boundary lines subtracting out the vote by mail voters from the total universe of 1000 voters served by a single precinct. Today, nearly half of our voters vote by mail. In low turnout elections, this makes an already long day (15 hours) into an incredibly long and slow day. Thank you, Senator Simitian! This law will save money and create more vibrant, active polling places on Election Day which in turn will make serving at the polls an interesting day! Our election officers deserve that.

Signed into LAW. AB 1717 (deLeon) Assemblyman deLeon‘s legislation will allow voters to “opt out” of receiving a paper copy of the Sample Ballot & Official Voter Pamphlet and “opt in” to receiving it electronically, instead. This law will offer people a choice and let those who prefer to read, save and retrieve their information online to do so. It will also help reduce our carbon footprint, save resources, and money. And, although it was recently blogged about, it was worth mentioning again as we think this is a really good step forward.

UNDER CONSIDERATION by the Governor. AB 2616 (Hill) If signed into law, Assemblyman Hill‘s bill will make it possible for vote by mail voters to confirm their votes were counted by checking the county web site or calling the Elections Office. If a ballot isn’t counted, the voter will be told why. (signature doesn’t match, ballot arrives late, etc.) I would note that it is our current practice (and has been for a long time) to contact a vote by mail voter prior to the election (if time allows) when a signature doesn’t match the voter registration card we have on file. We give the voter a chance to come into the office and resign to validate their signature. If their signature has completely changed, we ask them to reregister in order to update their signature. Signatures can change for a number of reasons – like a broken wrist, a stroke or when people are in a big hurry.

This is a good bill – it won’t cost much as we already provide this service for provisional voters.


Election technology has the power to be “Transformative”

The proponents of the Marijuana Initiative to change California law to legalize marijuana turned in their signatures at election offices throughout the state in their bid to qualify for the November 2010 ballot.  So what!  It’s one of many initiatives in circulation. 

What’s different?  This is the first time in California history that an electronic signature has been submitted to qualify an initiative petition. The signature was turned in on a jump drive.

Chief Elections Officer Warren Slocum rejected the electronic signature on the basis that the signature failed to meet code requirements.  It won’t  invalidate the initiative’s other signatures, but it does open the door to a whole new ballgame.

Will the courts will allow this kind of technology to be applied in the world of elections? 

Slocum, a believer in technology, looks forward to bringing the world of Elections into the 21st century– if the court allows it.  He went on to explain, “Election law did not anticipate this method of signature gathering and it does not offer guidance in this area,” Slocum continued.  Different code sections and regulations offer divergent approaches to the use and acceptance of electronic signatures. 

“This form of signature gathering could be transformative,” said Slocum.

It will take less time and money to verify signatures – not to mention the mountains of paper petitions and energy used to make that paper and print the petitions.  And, this technology makes it possible for signature gatherers to widely distribute petitions at little or no cost – making the political process that much more accessible.  

We shall see.

Rebooting Democracy with Smart Phones

If there is one thing technological trend that we believe in it is this – mobile technology. The iTunes App Store has over 100,000 mobile applications, new smart phones like the recent Google phone will saturate the market and as all of that happens more and more business, personal productivity and lifestyle applications will get deployed.

The democracy space is not immune from the impacts of this confluence.

A new Silicon Valley company launched a smart phone app yesterday – called Verafirma – that will allow signature gatherers to collect your signature on a cell phone app!

California may become the first state in the nation to apply this kind of technology to the collection of signatures for initiatives, referendums and recalls headed for the ballot.

The new technology is catching some serious buzz, “I think it’s transformative,” said Warren Slocum, our Chief Elections Officer. “I’ve seen it – and from everything I know about it – it’s secure, has the necessary audit trail and provides controls that should give voters and election professionals confidence.”

Slocum cautions, however, that “Depending of the outcome in the courts, we could take a giant step toward the idea of an e-voter who is empowered to support legislation using today’s technology. Assuming it survives a legal test(s) in the courts, which is an inevitable result of the introduction of this new technology, we will know if registrars can take advantage of the efficiencies of the technology or not.”

Check out the video to see how it works!

According to Jude Barry, a San Jose political strategist and co-founder of the firm, the technology also works on an iPod Touch and the Verizon Droid and should soon work on other smart phones.

Slocum added that, “Gov. Hiram Johnson, the California governor who added initiative, referendum and recall to the practice of democracy in the state would be proud. Submitting signatures electronically could make it a lot less expensive for county registrars to verify the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to qualify measures. This innovation is a good thing for the whole movement toward green voting because it reduces the carbon footprint and doesn’t involve having a piece of paper shoved at you in front of a supermarket.”

A New Voter Registration System for San Mateo County

The County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of a new Voter Registration System on November 10, which will make way to much more efficient and cost-effective registration and election management processes.

The new system, DFM’s Elections Information Management System (EIMS), supports automated data entry using intelligent character recognition and will nearly eliminate the fully manual data entry process used today.

Continue reading

The Canvass is Underway

Our Chief – Warren Slocum –  has always maintained that the most important, least understood, part of any election is the audit of that election, otherwise known as the Canvass. This is the part of the election that is “proof of the pudding” an expression my mother used to use that to this day I don’t quite understand.  Unlike that expression, the Canvass provides that transparent look at the election results that gives election administrators, candidates, voters and anyone who cares to take a close look, the confidence to know that every vote that was cast in an election was, in fact, counted and counted as it was intended. 

The Canvass technically begins when the polls close on Election Night. But the majority of the work of the Canvass begins the following morning. And that’s a good thing.  We all need sleep. It continues for the next 28 days. The warehouse will be humming with activity.  (nevermind that we’re also preparing for the June 2 Special Election for the Redwood City Elementary School District).

So, what’s the first order of business?  The retrieval of all of the eSlates that were locked together at the precincts Election Night and picked up the following day, the verification of signatures on the vote by mail ballots that were dropped off at the polls on Election Day (turns out there were 12,000+) ballots cast this way, the research that goes into verifying the signatures and registration status of everyone who cast a provisional ballot at the polls, and the inventory and return of all supplies in the red supply suitcases.  That’s just the beginning.

Think of it this way–there’s the rest of the ballots that have to be validated before they can be counted, there’s the whole warehouse that has to be put back in order (voting equipment, supplies, etc.), and then there’s the counting of those ballots that passed the signature verification check.  All that has to go on before the 1% manual audit can be conducted. With 407 precincts – there’s lots of stuff.  And it’s a surprisingly manual process if you were to visit the warehouse to see for yourself. This brings me to my next point!

All of this is open to public view – observers are welcome. We do ask that you call the Elections Office, specifically Narda Garcia, the Elections Supervisor at (650) 312-5365 and let her know you’ll be coming. She’ll issue you a visitors badge, give you an overview of what you’re seeing and answer any questions you have.

Time for the Official Canvass

As we mentioned earlier, the Official Canvass of the Vote started Wednesday, marking the beginning of the 28-day period required to complete vote tallies and ballots and reconciliation of votes.

“The Canvass is the least understood, most important part of the elections process,” Slocum, our Chief Elections Officer, is apt to declare.

Continue reading

Provisional Voting Explained

So they gave you a provisional ballot — now what?

We won’t turn any voter away (during polling place hours). But if we don’t find you on the Roster, you’ll be given a provisional ballot.

What does this mean? How is it any different from a regular ballot? The answer — the ballot isn’t different. It’s just processed differently.

Here’s a few of the many different scenarios that would result in a provisional ballot:

1. The voter’s name doesn’t show up on the Combined Roster-Index.
2. The voter is a Vote by Mail voter that wants to vote at the polls, but doesn’t have a Vote by Mail ballot to surrender.
3. The address printed on the roster does not match the voter’s current address.

If you vote on a provisional ballot, we’ll ask you to seal it in a green-bordered envelope that looks like this:


After this step, most voters ask us, “how do I know if my vote was counted?”

In the 28 days following the election, the Elections Office will review and determine the eligibility of each provisional voter’s ballot.  If you are eligible to vote in this election, your ballot will be counted and added to the final vote tally.

If you vote provisionally today, you can call 866-830-VOTE (8683) beginning December 2.  If it’s not counted, you are entitled to know why it did not count.

And, by the way, if you’re just looking for results from today’s election, visit beginning 8:05 p.m. and stay tuned to Channel 26!