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Avoiding Mistakes On Election-Related Notarizations

new-vote-resized.jpgUpdated 5-8-18. The upcoming election season will see hundreds of candidates vying for federal, state and local offices. Notaries often play an important role in the democratic 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. Arkansas Notaries are also barred from committing such inappropriate acts as knowingly signing other people’s names, improperly recording other people’s addresses and birthdates, or offering payment for signatures on local ballot petitions.

In Oklahoma, Notaries are limited to notarizing a maximum of 20 absentee ballot affidavits for a single election. However, the 20-affidavit limit does not apply for notarizations performed at the Notary's place of business during normal business hours, but does apply to any agency or entity that provides voter registration services as required by the National Voter Registration Act.

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

Maine updated state laws regarding election-related petitions, including requiring 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 an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

Notary Law Updates By State

 

 

8 Comments

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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 social@nationalnotary.org 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?

James

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.

vickyrose864@yahoo.com

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: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/

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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