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Elections 2020: Mail-in voting could decide next president
Many states are planning on drastically different elections this year and mail-in ballots could be a big game changer.
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The claim: California is requiring signature verification for petition to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom but does not verify signatures on mail-in ballots
An effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom is spurring false claims about mail-in ballots in the Golden State.
Actor Kevin Sorbo claimed in a Tweet on Feb. 15 that California would require signature verification on the recall petitions for its Democratic governor but did not for voters who cast mail-in ballots
“How strange,” the former “Hercules” star said in a post that was retweeted more than 26,000 times and repeated on Rudy Giuliani’s Instagram account. Giuliani, who peddled conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, repeated the claim in an Instagram post of Sorbo with text over the image, calling it evidence of Democrats’ hypocrisy.
But that claim is false, and California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber’s office responded with its own tweet citing state law hours after Sorbo’s, though it made no mention of the actor’s post.
Neither Sorbo nor Giuliani immediately responded to a request for comment.
California law requires signature verification
Backers of Newsom’s recall recently said they had collected about 1.5 million signatures for its petition.
When that group turns in its petition, California law requires that those signatures be checked against signatures on file in voter registration records.
But that same law, found in the California Code of Regulations, has a second part that speaks to requirements for mail-in ballots: “In addition, the elections official must compare the signature on a voted vote-by-mail envelope and a voted provisional ballot envelope to the voter’s signature(s) in the voter’s registration record prior to counting a ballot.”
More than 15.4 million California voters cast mail-in ballots in the 2020 general election, accounting for about 87% of the 17.8 million votes cast in the state, according to Weber’s office.
Out of 86,401 California ballots rejected in the 2020 general election, 49,816 were not accepted because of nonmatching signatures and 14,666 were rejected because they did not have a signature, according to data from the California Secretary of State.
The law presumes that the signature is valid and does not require an exact match; it says that “similar characteristics” should match to determine if a signature is valid. Characteristics include the slant of the signature, whether it is printed or cursive and the way T’s are crossed, I’s are dotted or loops are made on some letters, among others.
Election officials cannot consider voters’ party preference, race or ethnicity in comparing signatures.
Several California media outlets produced stories in the lead-up to the November general election about California’s signature verification requirements for mail-in ballots and vulnerabilities in that system.
Our ruling: False
The claim that California is requiring signature verification for petitions to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom but did not verify signatures on mail-in ballots is FALSE. California law requires elections officials to compare signatures on recall petitions and mail-in and provisional ballots against those on file in voter records. Nearly three out of every four ballots rejected in the 2020 general election in California were for signature problems.
Our fact-check sources:
- California Secretary of State, Feb. 15: Twitter post
- NBC San Diego, Feb. 15: “Newsom Opponents Say They Have Enough Signatures to Trigger Recall Election“
- California Secretary of State, accessed Feb. 15: California Code of Regulations
- California Secretary of State, accessed Feb. 15: Historical Vote-By-Mail (Absentee) Ballot Use in California
- California Secretary of State, Jan. 22: “Secretary of State’s Office Issues Report on Same Day Voter Registration and Vote-by-Mail Ballot Rejection Rates“
- KQED, Oct. 2, 2020: “How to Make Sure Your Mail-In Ballot Isn’t Rejected in California“
- The Sacramento Bee, Oct. 9, 2020: “Will your California ballot be rejected if your signature doesn’t match? Here’s what to know“
- The Los Angeles Times, Oct. 28, 2020: “‘Ripe for error’: Ballot signature verification is flawed — and a big factor in the election“
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