Spurred in some part by COVID, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that absentee ballots no longer have to be notarized.
It was spurred by the League of Women Voters, as well as medical advocacy groups and at risk people. Essentially, they argued that the notary requirement should be removed, as some voters will be unwilling to go to the polls due to the pandemic, as well as marginalized communities, who do not have easy access to notary services.
Under Penalty of Perjury
The response from the courts was to remove the notary requirement and allow individuals to sign their absentee ballots under penalty of perjury.
“Respondent is barred from issuing ballot forms, instructions, and material suggesting notarization and/or a notarized affidavit form is the only means through which the requisite affidavit for absentee voting may be accomplished,” the order said.Tulsa World
Proponents say that it is removing an obstacle for voting, especially among seniors and medically compromised voters.
The vote from the court was 6-3.
The Argument Against the Lawsuit
Three judges dissented from the decision. They wrote two separate dissents.
Oklahoma passed a voting law in 2002. Under that law, they gave absentee ballots an exception to the rest of the law.
The court thought otherwise.
The argument against focused on proper channels for governing. That the court does not make the laws, the legislature does.
Justice M. John Kane IV dissented, writing “the issues stand presented to the wrong branch of government.” He was joined by Justice James Winchester. Justice Dustin Rowe wrote a separate dissent.Courthouse News Service
The dissenting opinions said it would open the voting to more fraud, as in person voters are required to present a valid ID.
“Considering the history of voter fraud, the specifics of our absentee voter process and recent legislative history, I agree with the respondent that it would be absurd to now open the gates and provide for no verification for absentee ballots but still require in-person voters to provide a valid I.D.”Non Doc
The Oklahoma Attorney General is now reviewing the ruling.
Outlook for Oklahoma Notaries, and other Notaries as Well
The game changes, but the wheel moves on.
The Oklahoma Primary is scheduled for June 30th. August 25th is the runoff primary, while the general election is on November 3rd.
For business, it will eliminate these signings. Since many absentee voters vote from outside their jurisdiction or in other countries, like our military, we’re not sure it creates a significant impact on the industry.
We would advise you to stay up to date on future actions. Or, better yet, just wait until we write about it.
We hope you all can stay busy and stay safe.
This is part four of our series on the coronavirus and the wider effects it has on our industry. It is amazing how quickly things have changed.
- Part 1 – Coronavirus and the Mobile Notary, Static Notaries Too
- Part 2 – Are Notaries Essential Business?
- Part 3 – Notaries and New York 202.7
- Part 4 – Oklahoma, COVID, the Election and Notaries
- Part 5 – The Pandemic and the Notary Swimming in the Storm