Each new election season brings a new crop of complaints claiming notarial impropriety involving ballot petitions. Some states, like South Dakota, are currently working to clamp down on notarization issues by proposing changes that would limit a candidate’s notarial abilities, and prohibit state officials from advising or assisting candidates.
The bill, pending before the South Dakota Legislature, comes after Brian Gosch, speaker of the state House of Representatives, was accused of notarizing the signature of a carrier of his own petition during last year’s election. Gosch survived the challenge because the court found no specific state election code banning a candidate from notarizing the signature of a petition carrier.
Should the new law pass, it would strictly prohibit candidates from notarizing signatures of a person gathering voters’ signatures on their behalf. The measure also would prohibit several political activities by the Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary of State or other official employees, including endorsing, working for, volunteering for, consulting, advising, or assisting candidates running for congressional, state or legislative office.
While election and notarial laws vary from state to state, the integrity of a notarization can ultimately make — or break — a candidate’s campaign, as seen in many recent election-related cases.