Table 14: How States Verify Voted Absentee/Mail Ballots

3/15/2022

Our organization does not run elections and cannot provide legal advice. If you are a voter looking for assistance, please contact your local election official. You can find your local election official's website and contact information by using this database from the US Vote Foundation.

This table is part of NCSL’s Voting Outside the Polling Place report.

The most common method to verify that absentee/mail ballots come from the intended voter is to conduct signature verification. When voters return an absentee/mail ballot, they must sign an affidavit on the ballot envelope. When the ballot is returned to the election office, election officials have a process for examining each and every signature and comparing it to other documents in their files that contain the voter signature—usually the voter registration record.

If a ballot is missing a signature or the signature does not match the one on file, some states offer voters the opportunity to “cure” their ballots. The election official will contact the voter explaining the problem and asking them to verify their information and that that they did in fact cast the ballot. See Table 15: States with Signature Cure Processes for more details.

Some states have other methods for verifying absentee/mail ballots, such as requiring voters to provide a copy of an identification document or to have the absentee/mail ballot witnessed or notarized.

Twenty-seven states conduct signature verification on returned absentee/mail ballots:

  • Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and West Virginia.

Nine states, the Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C., verify that an absentee/mail ballot envelope has been signed but do not conduct signature verification:

  • Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wyoming.

Nine states require the signature of a witness in addition to the voter’s signature. These states may conduct signature verification as well:

  • Alabama (two witnesses or a notary), Alaska (witness or notary), Louisiana, Minnesota (witness or notary), North Carolina (two witnesses or a notary), Rhode Island (two witnesses or a notary), South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Three states require the absentee/mail ballot envelope to be notarized:

  • Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Arkansas requires a copy of the voter’s ID to be returned with the absentee/mail ballot. And Georgia requires the voter’s driver’s license number or state identification card number, which is compared with the voter’s registration record. Note: Minnesota and Ohio also require this information, though Minnesota also requires a witness signature, and Ohio conducts signature verification.

States also verify absentee ballot applications; see Table 8: How States Verify Absentee Ballot Applications for further details.

Note: The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) places additional identification requirements on first-time voters who registered by mail. That information is not included in the table below.

State

Does the State Require Signature Verification?

Are Notary or Witness Signatures Required?

Details on How Absentee/Mail Ballots Are Verified

Alabama

Ala.Code 1975 §17-11-7

§17-11-10

No.

Yes; either two witnesses older than 18, or a notary public must sign the return envelope.

Absentee ballot return envelopes must be signed by the voter and either two witnesses or notary public. If the witnessing of the signature and the information in the affidavit establish that the voter is entitled to vote by absentee ballot, then the election officials shall certify the findings, open each affidavit envelope, and deposit the plain envelope containing the absentee ballot into a sealed ballot box.

Alaska

AS §15.20.203

No.

Yes; an attesting signature is needed by a witness older than 18 or an official authorized to administer oaths.

Absentee ballot return envelopes must be signed by the voter and a witness or other authorized official. Ballots are not counted if the voter or the official or witness authorized by law to attest the voter’s certificate failed to properly sign the certificate on the outside of the return envelope.

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. §16-547 

§16-550

§16-552(B)

Yes.

No.

Absentee ballot return envelopes must be signed by the voter under penalty of perjury. Upon receipt, the voter’s signature on the affidavit is compared to the signature on the voter’s registration record. The vote is counted only if the signatures correspond and if the affidavit is found to be sufficient.

Arkansas 

Constitution, Amendment 51, § 13

Ark. Code Ann. §7-5-409(b)(4)

§7-5-412

§7-5-416

No.

No.

The voter statement on each absentee ballot must be signed by the voter under penalty of perjury. The voter must also provide verification of registration or a copy of a photo ID with the returned absentee ballot. If the county board of election commissioners determines that the absentee application and the voter's statement do not compare as to name, residential voting address, date of birth, and signature, the absentee ballot shall not be counted.

California

Election Code § 3019

Yes.

No.

The identification envelope must be signed by the voter. Upon receipt of a mail ballot, the elections official compares the signature on the identification envelope with either of the following to determine if the signatures compare: (1) The signature appearing on the voter's affidavit of registration or any previous affidavit of registration of the voter. (2) The signature appearing on a form issued by an elections official that contains the voter's signature and that is part of the voter's registration record. If upon conducting the comparison of signatures the elections official determines that the signatures do not compare, the identification envelope shall not be opened, and the ballot shall not be counted.

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 1-7.5-107.3

Yes.

No.

The self-affirmation on the return envelope must be signed by the voter. Election judges compare the signature on the self-affirmation on each return envelope with the signature of the eligible elector stored in the statewide voter registration system. If the election judge determines the signatures do not match, two other election judges of different political party affiliations shall simultaneously compare the signatures. If both other election judges agree that the signatures do not match, the county clerk and recorder shall send to the eligible elector a letter explaining the discrepancy in signatures and a form for the eligible elector to confirm that the elector returned a ballot to the county clerk and recorder. If the eligible elector returns the form indicating that the elector did not return a ballot to the county clerk and recorder, or if the eligible elector does not return the form within eight days after Election Day, the self-affirmation on the return envelope shall be categorized as incorrect, the ballot shall not be counted, and the county clerk and recorder shall send copies of the eligible elector's signature on the return envelope and the signature stored in the statewide voter registration system to the district attorney for investigation.

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §9-137

§9-140a

§9-150a(d)

§9-359a

No.

No.

The statement on the inner envelope of an absentee ballot must be signed by the voter under penalties of false statement.  If the statement on the inner envelope is not signed as required, the ballot is rejected.

Delaware

Del. Code Tit. 15, §5505(b)(4)

§5514

No.

No.

Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with an oath that must be signed by the voter. If a ballot is returned without a signature on the oath or if the envelope is open or appears to have been tampered with, it is not counted.

District of Columbia

D.C. Mun. Regs. Tit. 3, § 720.11

No.

No.

An absentee ballot shall be counted provided that the voter signs the absentee ballot envelope to certify that the voter has voted the ballot, that the voter’s information is correct, and that the voter is a qualified elector.

Florida

West’s F.S.A. §101.64

§101.65(7)

§101.68(1)(c)

Yes.

No.

Absentee ballot secrecy envelopes are printed with a voter’s certificate which must be signed by the voter. Election officials compare the signature of the elector on the voter's certificate with the signature of the elector in the registration books or the precinct register to see that the elector is duly registered in the county and to determine the legality of that vote-by-mail ballot.

Georgia

Ga. Code Ann.

§21-2-384

§21-2-386(a)(1)

No.

No.

Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with an oath which must be signed by the voter. A voter must also provide the number of their driver’s license or identification card. Election officials confirm the oath was signed and compare the voter’s driver’s license number or state identification card number to the voter’s registration information. Ballots with missing information or information that does not conform to the voter’s record are rejected.

Hawaii

HRS §15-6

§ 11-104

§ 11-106

Yes.

No.

Mail ballot return envelopes are printed with an affirmation statement to be signed by the voter.  The return envelopes are checked for a signature on the affirmation statement and whether the signature corresponds with the reference signature image.

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1004

§34-1005

§34-1009

Yes.

No.

Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with an affidavit on the back, which the voter must sign. The county clerk compares the voter’s signature on the affidavit to the signature from the voter’s registration. The ballot may be challenged if the affidavit is insufficient, and ballots ruled insufficient shall not be opened.

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/19-8(g)

Yes.

No.

The election judge or official shall compare the voter's signature on the certification envelope of that vote by mail ballot with the signature of the voter on file in the office of the election authority. If the election judge or official determines that the signatures do not match, or that the vote by mail voter is not qualified to cast a vote by mail ballot, then without opening the certification envelope, then the ballot is rejected.

Indiana

IC §3-11-4-21

§3-11.5-4-5

§3-11-10-1.2

§3-11-10-29

Yes.

No.

Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with an affidavit on the back, which the voter must sign under penalty of perjury. County election board members compare the signature on the absentee ballot envelope with the signature on the voter’s absentee ballot application or electronic poll book, and signatures deemed genuine are accepted.

Iowa

Iowa Code §53.16

§53.18

Yes.

No.

Absentee voters sign an affidavit on the ballot envelope. Affidavits are reviewed for completeness, and those with defects are not counted. A return envelope is considered to contain a defect if it appears that the signature on the envelope has been signed by someone other than the registered voter, in comparing the signature on the envelope to the signature on record of the registered voter named on the envelope.

Kansas

K.S.A.§25-1136(b)

No.

No.

The absentee ballot envelope contains a declaration that must be signed by the voter.  Absentee ballots that are not signed are not counted.

Kentucky

Ken. Rev. Stat. §117.085(10)

§117.087(3)(c)

Yes.

No.

The return envelope is printed with a space for the signature of the voter. Signatures on the outer envelope are compared with the signature of the voter on the registration card, unsigned ballots or those with signatures that do not match are not counted.

Louisiana

LSA-R.S. §18:1306(E)

§18:1313(G)

No.

Yes; the absentee ballot return envelope must be signed by a witness.

Absentee ballot return envelopes bear a certificate and affidavit which must be signed by the voter and a witness. The name on the certificate is compared with the names on the absentee-by-mail voter report.  If a majority of members of the counting board determine that an absentee ballot is invalid, the ballot is rejected and not counted.

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. § 756

§ 759

Yes.

No.

The return envelope must be signed by the voter. The clerk compares the signature on the envelope with the signature of the voter on the absentee ballot application. The absentee ballot is rejected and not counted if the signatures do not appear to have been made by the same person or if the affidavit is not properly completed.

Maryland

MD Code, Election Law, § 9-310

COMAR 33.11.04.05

33.11.05.03

33.11.06.03

No.

No.

An oath prescribed by the state board is printed on the ballot envelope and must be signed by the voter. A team of election officials verify that the oath is signed, and the return envelope sealed. Ballots are rejected if the voter failed to sign the oath.

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. 54 § 92

§ 94

Yes.

No.

The absentee ballot envelope contains an affidavit that the voter must sign. The signature on the absentee envelope is compared with the signature on the absentee ballot application. If the ballot envelope was not signed by the same person who signed the absentee ballot application, it is rejected.

Michigan

M.C.L.A. §168.764a

§168.766

§168.767

Yes.

No.

Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with a statement that must be signed by the voter. The signature on the absentee envelope is compared to the digitized signature in the qualified voter file or the registration record. If the signature on the envelope does not agree sufficiently with the signature on record, the ballot is rejected.

Minnesota

M.S.A. § 203B.07

§ 203B.121

No.

Yes; the absentee ballot envelope must be signed by either a witness who is registered to vote in Minnesota or by an individual authorized to administer oaths.

A certificate of eligibility to vote by absentee is printed on the back of the return envelope and must be signed by the voter and a witness. Voters must also provide a Minnesota driver's license number, state identification number or the last four digits of the voter's Social Security number. Election judges of different political party affiliations examine absentee ballots. If the voter’s driver’s license number, state identification number or the last four digits of the voter’s social security number on the ballot does not match the information provided on the absentee ballot application, the election judges must compare the signatures on the ballot and application. Ballots that fail to meet the requirements (signature, eligibility, etc.) are rejected.

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann.  § 23-15-633

§ 23-15-635

§ 23-15-639

§ 23-15-641

No.

Yes; absentee ballot envelopes must be signed by a notary public or other official authorized to administer oaths.

The absentee ballot envelope contains a certificate that must be signed by the voter and an attesting witness who is authorized to administer oaths. Absentee ballots are not counted if the envelope is not signed by the voter and an attesting witness. Election officials compare the signature on the ballot envelope with that on the absentee ballot application. If the signatures match, the ballot is counted. If the signatures do not match, the ballot is rejected.

Missouri

V.A.M.S. §115.283

§115.295

No.

Yes; absentee ballot envelopes must be signed by a notary election official, or other officer authorized to administer oaths.

Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with a statement that must be signed by the voter under penalty of perjury. The affidavit of each person voting an absentee ballot shall be subscribed and sworn to by the election official receiving the ballot, a notary public or other officer authorized to administer oaths. The ballot is rejected if the statement is not completed.

Montana

Mont. Code Ann. §13-13-201

§13-13-241

Yes.

No.

An affirmation is printed on the return envelope and must be signed by the voter. The signature on the ballot envelope is compared with the signature on the absentee ballot application or the voter’s registration form. If the signatures match, the ballot is counted. If the signatures do not match and the signature is not cured, the ballot is handled as a provisional ballot.

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-947

No.

No.

The absentee ballot envelope contains an oath that must be signed by the voter.

Nevada

N.R.S. AB 321, § 6

§ 11

Yes.

No.

The return envelope must be signed by the voter. Election officials check the signature on the absentee ballot envelope against the voter registration signature or other signatures available in the clerk’s records using either an electronic or manual process. A ballot with a signature that matches signatures in the voter’s record are processed and prepared for counting.

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 657:17

§ 659:50

Yes.

No.

The voter signs an affidavit on the absentee ballot envelope. Election officials compare the signature on the affidavit with the signature on the absentee ballot application. If the affidavit is not properly executed or not signed by the proper person, the ballot is rejected.

New Jersey

N.J. Stat. Ann.

§ 19:63-13

§ 19:63-17

Yes.

No.

The inner envelope is printed with a certificate that the voter must sign and place in the outer envelope. Election officials compare the signatures on the envelope with the signature and information in the request for a mail-in ballot and in the statewide voter registration system. Signatures that do not match are rejected.

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. Ann. 

§ 1-6-8

§ 1-6-14

No.

No.

Absentee ballot envelopes contain a form that must be signed by the voter. If the signature is missing, the ballot is rejected.

New York

McKinney's Election Law

§ 8-410

§ 9-209

Yes.

No.

Absentee voters sign an oath on the envelope. The central board of canvassers compares the signature on the envelope to the signature in the registration poll record. If the signatures correspond, the ballot is accepted.

North Carolina

N.C.G.S.A.

§ 163-231

§ 163A-1317

No.

Yes; absentee ballot envelopes must be signed by two witnesses who are at least 18 years old or a notary public.

The absentee ballot contains a certificate that that the voter must sign.  The certificate must be witnessed by two persons at least 18 years old or by a notary public. The two witnesses must indicate their addresses.

North Dakota

NDCC §16.1-07-08

§16.1-07-12

Yes.

No.

Return envelopes are printed with an affidavit that the voter must sign under the penalty of possible criminal prosecution for making a false statement. Election officials compare the signature on the affidavit to the signature on the absentee ballot application. If they do not correspond or the affidavit is found to be insufficient, the ballot is rejected.

Ohio

R.C. §3509.04

§3509.06(D)

Yes.

No.

Ballot return envelopes are printed with an identification statement requiring both the voter’s signature under penalty of election falsification and the voter’s driver’s license number or the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number. In lieu of providing either of those numbers, a voter may enclose a copy of an eligible ID. Election officials compare the signature on the return envelope with the signature on the voter’s registration form to determine eligibility.

Oklahoma

26 Okl.St.Ann §14-107

§14-108

§14-108.1

§14-123

No.

Yes; absentee ballot envelopes must be notarized.

Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with an affidavit that the voter must sign. The affidavit must be witnessed by a notary. Notary publics must maintain a log of all absentee ballot affidavits that they witness and may not notarize more than 20 absentee ballot affidavits for a single election without the written approval of the election board. The county election board reviews each ballot to verify that the affidavit was properly executed and determines whether improperly executed affidavits should be accepted or rejected pursuant to law.

Oregon

O.R.S.

§ 254.431

§ 254.470

Yes.

No.

The return identification envelope must be signed by the voter. The county clerk compares the signature on the return identification envelope with the signature on the elector’s registration record. Ballots are only counted if they are signed and the signatures match.

Pennsylvania

25 P.S. § 3146.4

§ 3146.6(a)

§ 3146.8

No.

No.

The return envelope is printed with a declaration that must be signed by the voter. The county board verifies the proof of identification and compares the information on the return envelope with the information in the “registered absentee voters file” and list of absentee voters. All ballots that are verified shall be counted.

Puerto Rico

16 L.P.R.A. § Section 9.36.-

No. No. None specified.

Rhode Island

Gen.Laws 1956,

§17-20-2.1

§17-20-21

§17-20-23

§17-20-26         

No.

Yes; absentee ballot envelopes must be signed by two witnesses or a notary public. Military and overseas voters do not need a signature or notary.

Mail ballot envelopes are printed with a certificate that must be signed by the voter and a notary or two witnesses. Election officials compare the name, residence and signature on the certificate with the signature on the absentee ballot application to ensure they are identical. Ballots that can be reasonably identified to come from the correct eligible voter are certified.

South Carolina

S.C. Code

§7-15-220

§7-15-230

No.

Yes; absentee ballot envelopes must be signed by the voter and a witness. Military and overseas voters are exempt from the witness requirement.

Absentee ballots must be returned with an oath that is signed by the voter and a witness. No ballot is counted unless the oath is properly signed.

South Dakota

SDCL § 12-19-4

§12-19-10

Yes.

No.

Return envelopes are printed with a statement that must be signed by the voter. Election officials compare the signature on the statement with the signature on the absentee ballot application. Ballots must be complete and accurate to be opened.

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann.

§ 2-6-202

§ 2-6-204

Yes.

No.

The absentee ballot contains an affidavit that the voter must sign under penalty of perjury. The election administrator compares the voter’s signature on the absentee ballot application and the absentee ballot envelope the signature in the registration record. If the administrator determines that the ballot is not entitled to be cast under this title, the administrator shall mark the absentee ballot envelope “Rejected,” write the reason for the rejection on the envelope and sign it.

Texas

Elec. Code §86.013

§87.027

§87.0271

Yes.

No.

Absentee ballot carrier envelopes are printed with a certificate that must be signed by the voter. A signature verification committee compares the signature on the envelope with the signature on the voter’s ballot application or any other signature on file for the voter.

Utah

U.C.A. 1953

§ 20A-3a-204

§ 20A-3a-401

Yes.

No.

The back of the return envelope is printed with an affidavit that must be signed by the voter. Poll workers compare the signature on the mail ballot envelope to the signature in the voter’s registration record. If the signatures do not match or the voter is ineligible, the vote is disallowed.

Vermont

17 V.S.A. § 2542

§ 2546

§ 2547

No.

No.

Mail ballots contain a certificate that must be signed by the voter.  Election officials determine that the certificate has been properly completed and signed before counting the ballot. If the certificate is not signed it is marked as “defective” and not counted.

Virgin Islands

18 V.I.C. § 666

No. No. Absentee ballot return envelopes contain an affidavit that must be signed by the voter. If properly executed, the affidavit is prima facie evidence of the voter's qualification to become a voter.

Virginia

Virginia Stat. §24.2-706

§24.2-707

§24.2-709.1

§24.2-711.1

No.

Yes; absentee envelopes must be signed by the voter and a witness.

The return envelope is printed with a statement that must be signed by the voter and one witness. If the affirmation on the envelope is completed as required, the ballot is counted.

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code §29A.40.091

§29A.40.110

§29A.60.165

Yes.

No.

The ballot must be returned with a declaration that must be signed by the voter.  Election officials compare the signature on the declaration with the signature in the voter’s registration file. All personnel assigned to verify signatures must receive training on statewide standards for signature verification. Signature verification may be conducted by an automated verification system approved by the secretary of state.

West Virginia

WV Stat.

§ 3-3-5

§ 3-3-10

Yes.

No.

The absentee return envelopes must be signed by the voter.   Election officials may challenge an absent voter’s ballot if the signature of the person voting an absentee ballot is not in the same handwriting as the signature in the voter’s absentee application or registration record.

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. Ann. §6.87

§6.88

No.

Yes; absentee ballots must be signed by the voter and a witness.

 The absentee ballot includes a certificate that must be signed by the voter and witnessed. If the certificate is insufficient, the ballot is rejected.

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat.

§ 22-9-111

§ 22-9-121

No.

No.

Absentee ballots include an affidavit that must be signed by the voter.  If the affidavit on the absentee ballot envelope is not legally sufficient, the ballot is rejected.