Your Second Grade Teacher Was Right - Good Handwriting is Important


This guy's vote almost didn't count and he's kind of famous. Will yours? (Photo via

Michael Kinsley founded Slate, edited the LA Times opinion pages, and pens columns for the Washington Post. He’s made a career off having strong opinions about politics, but for all that, Kinsley almost didn’t get to vote in this election. After mailing in his absentee ballot, he got a call from a campaign volunteer at the local Obama field office. The King County Board of Elections pulled his ballot because the signature didn’t match his registration.

“I’m not too surprised, my handwriting’s pretty bad,” says Kinsley. He first registered to vote in King County in 1996, when he moved here to start Slate.

Until the call came, Kinsley says he had no idea his vote might not count. After hearing about the problem, he called up King County elections and asked how to fix it. He needed to fill out another form and send in a copy of his driver’s license. Kinsley says he might not have bothered but for the tight Governor’s race.

“I don’t think Obama really needs the help here,” he says. “I’m doing it for Christine Gregoire, whom I’ve never met.”

Kinsley’s not alone. King County reports that 3,500 of the 248,119 absentee ballots received so far haven’t been tallied because of signature issues. County elections spokeswoman Megan Coppersmith says that a “miscomparison”—a signature on the ballot that doesn’t match the one on the voter registration— is the most common problem. (For more on this subject, see our story from last year.) That’s why the county has a new voter education campaign. Its slogan? “Your signature counts as much as your vote. Take your time. Vote and sign.”

County employees trained by the Washington State Patrol are checking all the signatures as the ballots come in. If your John Hancock on the ballot doesn’t match the one on your voter registration card, the ballot isn’t even opened. That’s one good reason to vote early. The first batch of ballots has been checked and voters with signature issues are getting notices from the county this week. But there’s lots of time left for sloppy signers (no offense Kinsley) to still get their votes counted. They have until the election’s certification date, Nov. 24, to mail in the requisite paperwork needed for fixing.

Kinsley, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, says he hasn’t received any notice of his signature problem so far.

If you were a little drunk when you filled out the ballot, switched to a better looking signature to impress the teller where you cash your checks, or are just a generally paranoid person, you can contact King County elections by calling 296-VOTE or sending an e-mail here.

Note to readers: Our blog doesn't double byline, intrepid reporter Aimee Curl should be at the top, too.

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