Stefani Seffinger lost a guaranteed seat on the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission after the Jackson County Elections Office ruled that not enough signatures on her candidate petition sheets were valid.

Stefani Seffinger lost a guaranteed seat on the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission after the Jackson County Elections Office ruled that not enough signatures on her candidate petition sheets were valid.

Her name will not appear on the ballot and she will have to mount a write-in campaign.

Seffinger was the only candidate for the seat being vacated by Parks Commissioner Melody Noraas, who is not seeking re-election. Now a glass artist, Seffinger is retired from careers as an educator in Ashland and a parks recreation director in California.

Seffinger needed to turn in 25 valid signatures from registered Ashland voters by Aug. 20 in order to qualify for the ballot. Seffinger turned in 32 signatures on Aug. 19. The Elections Office said two signatures were from people who did not live inside Ashland, two signatures were from people who were not registered voters and five signatures on Seffinger's petition sheets did not match signatures on the voters' registration cards.

The county ruled that 23 signatures were valid — two short of the required 25.

The county and city of Ashland have no process for Seffinger to prove that the signatures that didn't match actually came from the correct voters.

"Several of the people were my best friends," Seffinger said. "The county said the signature had to match the signature on the voter registration card, which could have been signed years ago. It seems like a strange fluke in the democratic process that there's no way of fixing it. There is no signing of an affidavit to say, 'That is really my signature.'"

Registered Ashland voter Edward Perkins said he signed Seffinger's petition sheet. The Elections Office ruled that his signature on the sheet did not match his voter registration card signature.

The petition sheets are online on the city of Ashland's Web site. Perkins checked his signature online.

"That is definitely my signature. I definitely signed that petition," Perkins said.

His wife confirmed that she had seen her husband sign one of Seffinger's petition sheets.

Perkins said he doesn't know why his current signature was deemed not to match his past signature from his voter registration card.

"I'm getting along in years. My handwriting is not quite what it was 10 years ago when I moved here," he speculated.

County Elections Deputy Donna Connor said petition sheet signatures and voter registration card signatures need to look similar, with no missing letters or other discrepancies.

City Recorder Barbara Christensen, the city's elections officer, said she always warns prospective candidates to collect more than the 25 required signatures because some signatures are likely to be ruled invalid.

Prospective candidates should turn in their petition signature sheets early so they can be notified if they are short on valid signatures. That gives them time to collect additional signatures that can be submitted for verification to the Elections Office, Christensen said.

Christensen said there isn't a process for candidates to prove that non-matching signatures are actual signatures because that would be too time-consuming. Each election cycle has a series of deadlines that have to be met by candidates and elections officers. Delaying part of the process would disrupt efforts to meet later deadlines.

"It's like a domino effect," Christensen said.

Seffinger said she was not able to turn in her signature sheets early because her husband had been hospitalized in Portland and her son had been in a motorcycle accident in Los Angeles.

She said her experience with the non-matching signatures should serve as a warning.

Prospective candidates should tell people to try and sign petition sheets in the same way they signed their voter registration cards, even if that was several years ago, Seffinger said.

Connor said during elections, the county will notify a voter if his signature on the ballot does not match his voter registration card signature.

The voter has 10 days after the election to resign the ballot or update the signature on his voter registration card, Connor said.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.