In an August 21 numbered memo, State Board of Elections (SBE) Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell ordered county board of elections workers not to verify signatures to confirm that the person who signed an envelope that contains a ballot is the actual voter. She justified that by stating that the voter’s identity is verified through the witness signature on the envelope (page 1):
The law does not require that the voter’s signature on the envelope be compared with the voter’s signature in their registration record. Verification of the voter’s identity is completed through the witness requirement. See also Numbered Memo 2020-15, which explains that signature compar-ison is not permissible for absentee request forms. [emphasis added]
This bears repeating: Bell justified not allowing county boards to verify voter signatures because verification of the voter’s identity is done through the witness requirement.
But, that is not what board members of the State Board of Elections were told in a closed meeting on September 15, in which officials from the attorney general’s office, working with SBE staff, discussed a proposal to settle election lawsuits. One of the recommendations that Stein’s staff pushed in a memo to board members was to functionally eliminate the witness requirement by instituting a “cure” process in which ballots did not have to actually be witnessed.
Their justification for that elimination was that they don’t need it to confirm that the person who marked the ballot was actually the voter (page 4):
This would align with the evidence the State Board has provided in other litigation that the primary purpose of the witness signature requirement is not to verify the voter’s identity (which is done through other means), but rather to prevent the voter from having her ballot stolen and marked without her knowledge. [emphasis added]
(Bell was in the September 15 meeting and would have read that memo.)
So, we have election board members being given a justification for gutting the witness requirement that is in direct contradiction to what the Executive Director of the State Board of Elections had written to county election board members just three weeks earlier.
It gets deeper.
An astute observer may have noticed that Bell’s August 21 memo was linked above through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. That is because Bell later updated that memo on September 22 as part of a collusive settlement with Democratic attorney Marc Elias. Here is the same paragraph in the post-settlement numbered memo:
The law does not require that the voter’s signature on the envelope be compared with the voter’s signature in their registration record. See also Numbered Memo 2020-15, which explains that signature comparison is not permissible for absentee request forms.
What we have here is a public official issuing a legal document (county boards are required to follow them) on August 21 telling election workers to not verify voter identity via signature verification because that would be handled through the witness requirement and then removing that notice later because it after election board members were told the opposite at the September 15 meeting. The net effect of those maneuvers is that neither signature verification nor witness verification are required to confirm the identity of the voter.
Despite that loss of justification, Bell has given no indication that she will reinstate signature verification before absentee ballots start getting process on September 29. All we are left with is a naked power play by the SBE executive director that makes absentee ballots less secure.