Should Notaries be a Part of Our Election Process?

Once again, there is conflict involving politics and notaries.  But, let’s not worry about the specifics of it all this time and ask a more poignant question.

Should notaries play a role in our election process?

We Don’t All Go to the Polls

To make it clear, we are not speaking about people who attend the polls to vote.  Instead, we are talking about absentee and mail in ballots.

In most cases, these votes are cast and counted as is, without any special requirement to prove the person who filled out the ballot is the one whose name is on the ballot.  And as any one of us who’ve been notarizing important documents for a while have learned, while proper notarization does not make a document bullet proof, it lends significant, legal credence to it.

Some states or localities have laws that require notarization of these types of ballots.  In our recent midterms, one locality let a select few of it’s residents vote by email or fax, if the ballot was notarized.

So, What’s the Problem?

I don’t think we need to tell you the types of things that are alleged to occur in our elections.  But, we do need to take into account these things, if we are to properly address the questions.

So we are going to provide you with three different circumstances where either a notary, or lack of a notary, has become a question.  We are not going to name states, parties, races. We are simply going to give you the facts as we know them.

Should Notaries Play a Role In Our Elections?

Break Glass In Case of Emergency?

So, there was an area in the United States that experienced a massive natural disaster just a couple of weeks before the election.  People homes were destroyed, lives turned upside down, sentimental possessions lost forever.

In other words, there was nothing to return to, at least yet.  And some who fled could not return due to medical or other significant reasons.

So, flouting the word of the election law, but acting in its spirit (benefit of the doubt), the local elections supervisor let a little more than 100 residents vote remotely, by email or fax, with notarization.

This caused a kerfluffle, of course, that those ballots be rejected.  That they didn’t follow official election protocol.  The opposing viewpoint, that since these residents faced the worst and could not reasonably return in time, is that not allowing them to vote would be disenfranchising them.

And an important question arose from the situation.  How should we handle voting for those affected by natural disaster, who cannot reasonably return to their homes?  And should the notary play a role, to ensure the process is fair?

Mail-In Ballots – Notarization Required

So while most states do not require mail in ballots to be notarized, not all of them follow that protocol.

And that has led to accusations that some voters are disenfranchised because it is too hard to find a notary, or they may not be able to afford a notary.

While we would disagree that it is hard to find a notary, since that is our job and we are good at it, that does not mean we should dismiss peoples’ concerns outright.  In this case, education on finding a notary might be a good way to alleviate concerns.

Or, maybe an enterprising notary or two will find a way to target these voters, provide services to them at reduced cost, and reap the rewards of all of the positive PR.  It’s a very valid, loss leader strategy, if a notary is positioned to serve this clientele.  Sending out press releases to all of the local writers for your area newspapers and tv reporters, would most assuredly give that notary positive coverage in the press.

There are a lot of other issues concerning the process in this state, but we will stay out of those, because they do not address the question at hand.

Should notaries help ensure the integrity of our election process by notarizing ballots that are mailed in?

So now we’ll look at the flip side of this.

Mail-In Ballots – Notarization Not Required

In another state, a group of people were arrested last week for allegedly paying off homeless people to fill out fraudulent election documents.

While we are not sure why they were doing it, they are accused of bribing the homeless with money or cigarettes, over the course of several years.  The total amount of ballots affected by this group is unknown to us.

This group is alleged to have preyed on some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Would requiring a notary prevent these kind of abuses?  Is there a way, that we as notaries, can both protect the most vulnerable among us, while also ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard when we vote?

The Verdict

We are not here to give you an answer to anything.  We just want to raise valid points, so we may intelligently understand things.  That way, if questions are raised in our communities, we are ready to offer solutions.

But, it is impossible to dispute.  Notaries provide integrity.  They provide a verifiable paper trail to prove the legitimacy of documents and the people that sign them.

Are notaries the answer?  It is not for us to say.

Maybe the better question is “Could Notaries be the Answer?”.

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