Verification of ballot signatures hold Wapato's mayoral election in the balance

Verification of ballot signatures hold Wapato's mayoral election in the balance.

YAKIMA, Wash.- 31 votes were pulled from Wapato's mayoral election, because the signatures on the ballot didn't match what the county had on file.

"Those need to count, because if those numbers are decisive and they don't count, then this election will end up in court," said Juan Orozco, who is running for mayor of Wapato and is behind his opponent Hector Garza by only three votes.

He is threatening to sue the Yakima County's Auditor’s office if the election is decided, because ballots whose signatures don't match the ones on file are not allowed.

Signatures that don't match what's on file are not unheard of during elections in Yakima County.

However, county auditor Charles Ross said it's strange for so many to come from a specific area.

"We did notice a lot of ballots came out of the Wapato area this year where they had mismatched signatures. Specifically, where signatures weren't even close,” he said. “So, all those were pulled to the side."

He says whenever this happens, his office sends those voters another form to confirm their signature to see if it matches with the one on file or the new signature that was turned in.

Ross said people's signatures change all the time but is concerned with how different the signatures on some of the ballots looked compared to those on file.

"We'll see a block printed name when we have on file a cursive signature maybe or letters and shapes that just look nothing like each other and that brings concern to us," he said.

Orozco also told Action News many of these ballots that are under review might not match because they are coming from first time Latino voters.

A claim the auditor’s office said doesn't make sense.

"A person's signature or mark or however they sign their name is really irrelevant of their education level and I think it's really irrelevant of their racial background. I just don't understand how that even computes," Ross said.

Today is the last day for the office to count ballots, but Ross said he doesn't expect the numbers to change very much.

Leaving those 31 unverified signatures as the possible deciding factor for Wapato's mayor.

Ross says those ballots in question are going to be put in front of a three-person committee, who then vote to see if the vote will be allowed or not.

The committee will be meeting November 20 at 2 p.m. and the 27th at 4 p.m. in the auditors office. The meetings are open to the public.

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