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Avoiding mistakes on election-related notarizations

Avoid mistakes on election notarizations main

Updated 11-10-22. Notaries often play an important role in the voting process by notarizing ballot petitions and candidate nomination forms. While every notarization is important, mistakes have additional impact on election-related documents. A single error can cost a candidate a spot on the ballot and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars if an election must be redone, along with possible legal problems for you.

Because of the adversarial nature of our elections, political opponents frequently challenge each other’s place on the ballot — and one of the most common reasons is a flawed notarization. Even if a challenge is unsuccessful, it costs time and money.

Examples of state Notary election laws

In Arkansas, a Notary who fails to witness the signing of a canvasser's affidavit in person is guilty of a misdemeanor. The same holds true if the Notary fails to properly verify the identity of a signer. 

California prohibits charging fees to notarize signatures on vote by mail identification envelopes and other voting materials. California Notaries are not allowed to charge for verifying nomination documents and circulator's affidavits. 

Colorado prohibits a Notary from notarizing a circulator's affidavit on a recall petition unless the circulator is in the physical presence of the Notary and the circulator has dated the affidavit and fully and accurately completed all of the personal information on the affidavit.

In Oklahoma, Notaries are limited to notarizing a maximum of 20 absentee ballot affidavits for a single election, unless the Notary has written approval of the secretary of the county election board, in which case such approval shall apply for affidavits notarized within that county. The 20-ballot affidavit limit does not apply to absentee ballot affidavits notarized at a Notary's place of business that is open to the general public and notarized during the normal business hours of the Notary. Oklahoma Notaries are prohibited from requesting, submitting or receiving absentee ballots on behalf of another person.

In an effort to strengthen the election process, Massachusetts and Maine enacted ballot-related laws that affect Notaries. Massachusetts prohibits Notaries from charging a fee to notarize a signature on an absentee ballot identification envelope or other voting materials.

Maine requires election-related petition circulators to verify under oath or affirmation before a Notary that the circulator personally witnessed the petition signatures being made. Maine Notaries must also keep a log of petitions for which they administered a circulator's oath. Also, Notaries are prohibited from notarizing or certifying a petition if the Notary is an officer of a ballot committee or employed by a ballot committee or petition organization for any services other than notarizing. 

Small mistakes, big consequences

Even a simple mistake on a certificate can have serious consequences when it comes to elections. 

In 2014, for example, Florida State Representative Reggie Fullwood was removed from a ballot because of a Notary error on his candidate form. Fullwood tried to have the document re-notarized, but the second Notary didn’t complete the new certificate wording correctly — causing Fullwood to miss the election filing deadline.

Because he was the only candidate, a special second election had to be held to re-elect Fullwood — costing the county nearly $320,000 thanks to careless errors by two Notaries.

As a Notary, the best thing you can do is make sure to follow all applicable laws when notarizing election documents. That includes requiring every signer to personally appear before you, properly verifying their identities and completing the certificate wording correctly.

Petition circulators, canvassers and signature gatherers typically are under pressure to get their election documents completed as quickly as possible — which means signers may approach you with improper notarization requests or ask you to cut corners to meet a filing deadline.

Don’t do it. As with any other type of document, take the time to do your job right and don’t cut corners that could leave you in hot water with your state Notary office or liable for a negligent notarization.

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

Notary Law Updates By State

View All: Notary News


Add your comment

Stacie James O'Dowd

23 Nov 2015

WHY?? Iam not happy having to do this to get to th web site!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY DO I HAVE TO DO THIS?????????

National Notary Association

23 Nov 2015

Hello Stacie. We're sorry if you are experiencing some sort of difficulty with our site. We apologize but it's not clear from your comment what specific issue you are encountering. If you can please email us at and describe what the issue is, we can try to have our technical support assist you. Please be aware that the office will be closed Nov. 26-29 for the Thanksgiving holiday, so we will be unable to respond to emails during that time.

Valery Guptill

04 Aug 2016

Where does CV a notary signing up to participate in notarizing documents for the election?


07 Aug 2017

In my experience, the best thing to do, is just follow the law verbatim when it comes to notarizing things. Don't make any exceptions, don't take any excuses. Someone says, "oh I accidentally left my ID at home or in the car" you say, "sorry, let's get in touch another day." It's not worth going to court and getting sued and possibly criminally charged.

07 Aug 2017

Could you please post an example of a notary ballot...for California? I don´t have the experience for this. I do loan docs. Thank you

National Notary Association

08 Aug 2017

Hello. Please see here for more information on CA elections and related documents:

Philip Milazzo

24 Feb 2018

Before I notarize the Circulator’s Affidavit on a Petition, must the Circulator XXX out the unused Voter signature rows, of any?

National Notary Association

26 Feb 2018

Hello. You would need to contact either the agency that issued the petitions or the agency that will receive them after being notarized to ask for their instructions on this matter.

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