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South Dakota Dispute Shows Ethical Challenges Notaries Face With Election Documents

200px-Flag_of_South_Dakota-svg.pngAs the 2012 election season moves into full swing, Notaries are likely to encounter more requests to notarize nomination petitions and other election documents to ensure a candidate can get on the ballot. But don’t let a deadline pressure you into a rushed job that could lead to problems — such as the dispute in South Dakota after a lawmaker notarized his own election documents.

Shortly before a June 5 primary election, Rep. Brian Gosch’s nomination was challenged by another candidate claiming that Gosch inappropriately notarized his own nomination petition. Gosch, an attorney and Notary, countered that the documents were acceptable because he notarized the signature of a petition circulator rather than his own signature, according to local news reports. The petition and signatures were accepted by the Secretary of State’s office.

Complaints about improper notarizations on nomination petitions are frequently cited in challenges to local election results. To avoid questions about a notarization, the NNA strongly recommends against notarizing any document in which the Notary is named or would receive some kind of benefit from, even if not specifically prohibited from doing so by state law, and Notaries should never notarize their own signatures. Following the NNA’s Recommended Notary Practices can help prevent other unintentional mistakes that could lead to disputes over a document’s validity.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

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