To facilitate reliability of Vote-By-Mail in upcoming elections, Parascript and its VBM partners are working to provide automated signature verification that helps prevent fraud and reduces manual-based errors. As states prepare for the upcoming general election, concern regarding how elections can be conducted while still maintaining voter and poll volunteer safety has fueled interest in widespread adoption of vote-by-mail and automated signature verification.
“The reality is that there has been reluctance at the state and local level based on concerns over security, keeping with tradition and its implementation,” said Greg Council, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management at Parascript. “While ‘no-excuses’ vote-by-mail is offered by 36 states and 5 states have moved to 100% vote-by-mail, almost all states are now seriously considering vote-by-mail.”
In the wake of the COVID19 pandemic, states are overcoming their initial concerns to deploy widespread vote-by-mail and ensure that the general election does not experience the same problems recently witnessed in the Wisconsin primary.
Addressing Vote-By-Mail Challenges
In the rush to adopt vote-by-mail, several problems need to be addressed. One of the main issues heavily discussed is ensuring that each vote is legitimate. The most common method is the use of signature match or review where each signature on a submitted ballot is compared with signatures on voter records to determine authenticity. In many elections that use vote-by-mail or absentee ballots, signatures are still reviewed manually.
“Manual comparison of signatures can cause problems because of the time and resources required. More importantly, it also requires staff, who are not necessarily signature experts, to reliably and impartially compare signatures,” explained Mr. Council. “Automated Signature Verification or ASV offers a scientific and precise way to ensure matching signatures.”
There are verified cases of issues associated with the manual review of signatures. For instance a 2018 ACLU Florida study found that younger voters were four times more likely to have their absentee ballots rejected than older voters. Signatures are hard to evaluate especially if a reviewer has limited training in the field and limited experience. This is the case for counties moving into widespread vote-by-mail for the first time. The process may even be harder for certain segments of the population.
For example, younger voters may have insufficient experience with handwriting in general and with signing their names in particular. This may lead to less stable signatures, which can be rejected by inexperienced human reviewers. As another example, signatures of people with old voter registration records may be rejected because signatures often change over time. Such problems may be the cause of potential lawsuits attempting to end the entire practice, which could result in more questions of election legitimacy.
“Automated Signature Verification takes one or more reference signatures from voter records and compares them with the signature on the ballot to determine authenticity using artificial intelligence,” said Mr. Council. “The process takes less than a second for each ballot and produces results that are more reliable than results achieved with even well-trained staff, but also more consistent and tamper-proof.”
Even if signatures look different due to changes over time, the software can adapt looking at key, often hard-to-detect, characteristics that have been proven to remain relatively stable. There is no ability to coerce the software to discard ballots for certain candidates over others so the question of tampering or coercion can be eliminated.
Vote-by-mail also incurs delays in processing, not only because ballots can be received after the official election, but due to the process of evaluating each signature. ASV takes less than one second which enables VBM review to occur very quickly.
Proven Technology Used Successfully by Banks
ASV technology allows counties to save significantly on costs. Use of ASV minimizes the time required for training to be ready for the November election. Automated Signature Verification is already used successfully by banks to evaluate signatures on checks, especially checks with high amounts, to automatically verify legitimacy resulting in significant reductions in fraud while also reducing costs.
ASV is used today in many state’s vote-by-mail processes to provide solid assurances that each vote is treated fairly and thoroughly reviewed. Such states as Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and Utah can share their experience with ASV technology with other states that need to move quickly to incorporate this technology in their VBM processes in time for the November election.
As states quickly evaluate and implement vote-by-mail to support the upcoming election and elections in the future, automated signature verification will be a necessary component in their plans.
About Parascript, LLC
Parascript supplies the digital workforce with document automation solutions focused on transactions, information governance, fraud prevention and business processes. Parascript provides advanced capture leveraging machine learning with real-time adaptability and auto-configuration. Our software offers easy-to-use, image-based analysis, classification, data location, extraction and verification. More than 100 billion documents for financial services, government organizations and the healthcare industry are analyzed annually by Parascript software. Parascript offers its technology both as software products and as software-enabled services to our partners. Our BPO, service provider, OEM and value-added reseller network partners leverage, integrate and distribute Parascript software in the U.S. and across the world. Visit Parascript.