With razor thin margins within the presidential election in Georgia and Arizona, election officers are intently scrutinizing each poll. When the mud settles, there might be some variety of Americans whose votes are thrown out because of mismatched signatures on mail-in ballots—which might have implications for any potential recount. That’s as a result of these states, together with 29 others within the nation, depend upon signature matching verification, in line with the Campaign Legal Center. It’s a subjective process carried out by people to find out whether or not a poll might be processed, despite the fact that a spread of things, together with well being problems and know-how, might have an effect on an individual’s signature. 

Whereas Georgia and Arizona permit for poll “curing,” which means voters whose signatures didn’t match are contacted and have an opportunity to repair any points, the three-day and five-day home windows in these states don’t afford a lot time to make corrections. “The difficulty is {that a} U.S. citizen’s elementary proper to vote might be so simply discarded based mostly on a layman’s informal eyeball statement of their signatures,” says Sean J. Younger, authorized director of the ACLU of Georgia. 

The pseudoscience of graphology, the evaluation of handwriting, was a staple of late nineteenth and twentieth century courtroom testimony. Nonetheless, it’s largely been discredited over the previous three a long time and more and more stripped from authorized proceedings, which makes it all of the extra curious why any such evaluation performs a central position in verifying voting in so many states. “If you are going to disenfranchise a voter, you higher actually make it possible for it is on a reliable foundation,” says Younger, who litigated a successful case that required Georgia to vary its procedures relating to signature verification. 

Previous to 2018, an absentee mail-in poll reviewed by an untrained individual in Georgia might be tossed out with out recourse over a signature mismatch. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Muslim Voter Venture in opposition to then Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, argued that this course of violated the 14th modification, which protects a citizen’s proper to due course of. The authorized proceedings kicked off because of a disproportionate variety of mismatches recorded in Gwinnett County. The U.S. District Courtroom for the Northern District of Georgia agreed, requiring a “curing” interval for fixes within the 2018 election. A federal appeals courtroom upheld the ruling, which was codified in legislation by the state legislature in 2019. 

Tlisted below are many reliable explanation why an individual’s signature might change over time, together with age, well being problems or just that they modified fashion of their very own accord. As individuals mature, their mind is insulating nerve connections with a protecting defend, often called myelination. “Till your mind has absolutely shaped all of these connections, there’s nonetheless the likelihood that your handwriting could change,” says Dr. Camilla Kilbane, a motion dysfunction neurologist at College Hospitals Cleveland Medical Heart. Whereas these modifications could be extra pronounced in youngsters as they’re studying to jot down, this course of continues by means of the 20s and even up till age 30. 

The three most typical neurological problems which may contribute to a change in handwriting, could be Parkinson’s illness, important tremor and strokes, says Kilbane. With Parkinson’s illness, the tremor is most pronounced when resting. “What tends to occur is that the handwriting will get smaller,” says Kilbane, because of slower and stiffer actions. Important tremor, which is usually recognized each in early maturity and amongst seniors, is the other. “When your palms are resting in your lap, you do not have a tremor. However whenever you’re utilizing your palms, the tremor tends to get exacerbated,” says Kilbane, including that it might probably differ in severity. 

As anybody who has ever signed a bank card machine can probably attest, the signature made by an digital stylus can look very completely different from one made by a pen.  

After somebody has a stroke, they will exhibit ataxia, which Kilbane calls a “fancy phrase for incoordination,” which means sufferers could overshoot or undershoot when writing making it “sloppy and shaky.” A much less widespread trigger could be author’s cramp, which is medically known as dystonia, and causes an involuntary muscle contraction. 

Except for healthcare points, there can be problems from know-how in the case of signatures. In Georgia, residents are robotically registered to vote once they apply for a driver’s license. Many DMVs have carried out digital writing pads for individuals to jot down their signatures for driver’s licenses as a substitute of pen and paper, that are then used for verification, says Younger of the ACLU. As anybody who has ever signed a bank card machine can probably attest, the signature made by an digital stylus can look very completely different from one made by a pen.  

But the core concern is that the willpower of signature legitimacy is being made by one other individual based mostly on doubtful strategies. Within the case of Arizona, there may be some degree of coaching. “The counties are educated by forensic specialists, and each signature is reviewed by workers,” Secretary of State spokesperson Sophia Solis wrote in an electronic mail. The workplace was unable to supply information on what number of voters had been contacted relating to signature points within the 2016 presidential election and what number of ballots had been “cured.” 

The Georgia Secretary of State didn’t reply to a request for remark, however the state’s three day “treatment” interval ends Friday, the place any excellent mismatch ballots are formally rejected. Within the case of a recount, not one of the uncured mismatch ballots might be reexamined, says Younger. “The willpower of validity has already been made,” he says. “And it’s over, which can be why it’s form of scary.”

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