Automatic signature verification software threatens to disenfranchise U.S. voters

As of early October, more than 84.2 million absentee ballots had been requested or sent to U.S. voters in 47 states and the District of Columbia ahead of the U.S general election. According to some estimates, the swing state of Florida has already doubled California’s 1 million total, with nearly 2 million voters casting their mail-in ballots in the weeks leading up to November 3.

Delays in verifying mail-in ballots will slow the election tally, with tasks like processing ballots — verifying voters and separating that information from their ballot — anticipated to take longer than in previous years. Existing technology could expedite some processes, like software that matches signatures on ballot envelopes to voter records. (Thirty-three states require that voters’ signatures undergo validation.) But many question whether the algorithms underpinning this software might be biased against certain groups of voters.

How signature verification works

The category of algorithms used

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