There were claims on social media (e.g. Oct 18, 2019 tweet) that two subpoenas, ostensibly signed by Representative Elijah Cummings shortly before his death, had a forged signature.

This story was picked up by sites like Gateway Pundit.

Comparison of signatures

Were documents forged with Representative Cummings' signature?

  • 6
    It does seem clear that they are different. But even if one or both of them was written by someone other than Cummings himself (and we don't necessarily know which), that doesn't necessarily make it a "forgery". It could be that Cummings authorized someone else, perhaps a staff member, to sign his name for him if he was unable to do so or simply too busy. For all I know, this may be common practice among members of Congress. Of course, there is also the possibility that Cummings did sign both, and simply changed his signature between 2013 and 2019. Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 23:53
  • 3
    The analysis keeps confusing a letter "g" for a "y". Obviously the researcher should look deeper into this before coming to a conclusion, especially since the answer by @NegativeFriction is the obvious most likely scenario to consider before jumping on the conspiracy bandwagon.
    – cpcodes
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 18:26
  • 2
    I will note that people's handwriting changes, and is often different in different situations. In particular, a signature with the left hand vs right would be expected to exhibit the variations shown. Cummings was ambidextrous. Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 22:03
  • 2
    And the conspiracy theorists may like to consider that when a person is very sick, their signature might look a little different. Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 13:52
  • 2
    Several other examples of the signature from the years between 2013 (Wikipedia version) and 2019 (disputed signature) can be found on the net. These signatures, at least to an untrained eye, also show a great deal of variation and may even seem more similar to the allegedly forged signature than to the old 2013 signature found on Wikipedia. Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 16:54

1 Answer 1


Per some quick googling, it is legally permissible to allow a third party to sign your name for you. There are some specific legal hoops to jump through, but I doubt that a Congressman's staff wouldn't jump through said hoops.

Cummings had longstanding health complications prior to his death, and had been hospitalized before. He'd been diagnosed with cancer since 1994, and had lived with its effects until his death. It is very likely that he allowed a fellow member of his party to sign the bill in his stead, which is completely legal, when he was unable to sign it in person. Given the extremely divided nature of these subpoenas, I think it is reasonable to believe that he would have been comfortable stating that his vote should go with the majority of his party in the event that he had to vote through a proxy.

It's difficult to find a source conclusively stating one way or another, but given the fact that the subpoena aligned with the statements that he made on Capital Hill, I think it's reasonable to conclude that he simply granted the power of signature to someone he trusted while he was hospitalized or otherwise indisposed.

  • 10
    Your first reference is an Australian site, and its answer is based on Australian law (so doesn't apply here). Your second reference is about signing under procuration (under US law). When someone signs under procuration, they would normally sign their own name and then list the name of the person they are signing for next to that. (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procuration#Business_usage ) I am not aware of any US law that legally allows one person to sign another persons name as if they were that person. Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 22:47

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