ME Legislative Document 1323 | NNA
Law

ME Legislative Document 1323

Notary Law Update: ME Legislative Document 1323

State: Maine

Summary:

LD 1323 revises Maine’s direct initiative signature gathering process to provide security around the process of notarizing signature gathering petitions.

Signed:  June 29, 2017

Effective:  September 25, 2017

Chapter: Public Act No. 277

Affects:

Amends Maine Revised Statutes Annotated, Title 4 Sections 955 and 955-C, and Title 21-A Sections 902, 903-D and 905

Changes:
  1. Provides that a Notary is in violation of 4 MRSA 954-A or 960 if the Notary has allowed another person to use that Notary’s commission.
  2. Requires a signature gathering petition to be signed by the circulator and verified upon oath or affirmation before a Notary or other person authorized by law to administer oaths or affirmations.
  3. Requires the circulator of a petition to verify by oath or affirmation that the circulator personally witnessed all of the signatures to the petition and that to the best of the circulator's knowledge and belief each signature is the signature of the person whose name it purports to be and that each signature authorized under 21-A MRSA Section 153-A was made by the authorized signer in the presence and at the direction of the voter.
  4. Requires a Notary or other oath-administering official, after administering the oath or affirmation to a circulator on a signature gathering petition, to sign the notarial certificate on the petition while in the presence of the circulator.
  5. Requires a Notary or other oath-administering official to keep a log of petitions for which that person administered the circulator's oath.
  6. Requires a Notary or other oath-administering official to list in the log of petitions that the Notary or official notarized the title of the petition, the name of the circulator taking the oath, the date of the oath and the number of petition forms signed and verified by the circulator that day.
  7. Prohibits a Notary or other oath-administering official from notarizing or certifying a petition under section 902 if: (a) employed or compensated by a petition organization for any purpose other than notarial acts; (b) providing services or offering assistance to a ballot question committee established to influence the ballot measure for which the petitions are being circulated or employed by or receiving compensation from such a ballot question committee for any purpose other than notarial acts; or (c) a treasurer, principal officer, primary fundraiser or primary decision maker to a ballot question committee established to influence the ballot measure for which petitions are being circulated.
  8. Authorizes the Secretary of State to invalidate a petition if the Secretary is unable to verify the notarization of that petition.
  9. Requires the Secretary of State to establish a method to facilitate the acceptance of reports from members of the public regarding suspected fraudulent or illegal signature gathering practices for direct initiative and people's veto petitions.
Analysis:

Recently the state of Maine has witnessed high profile disputes regarding the authenticity of Notary signatures on election signature gathering petitions, the most recent of which was in 2016 when the Secretary of State invalidated thousands of signatures on petitions to validate the legalization of marijuana. LD 1323 authorizes the Secretary of invalidate a petition if the Secretary cannot verify the notarization of the petition. It also requires a Notary or oath administering official notarizing an election petition to complete the notarial certificate for the petition in the presence of the individual verifying the signatures. It also requires a Notary or oath-administering official to keep records of all petitions notarized and to record specified information for each. Thus, Maine follows Oklahoma in requiring that Notaries keep a journal of notarized election-related petitions. The new law also disqualifies a Notary from notarizing a petition under certain specified conditions. LD 1323 became law without the Governor’s signature.

Read the bill text.

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