During our weekly on-air conversations, John DePetro and I have long pondered the increasing significance of notary publics to political campaigns. A campaign with some extra money can deploy people to go out and get votes by bringing absentee ballots to them and signing off on their signatures.
Today, John noticed a statement from Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea touting the General Assembly’s passage of legislation implementing “a model” that only 11 other states have pursued “designed to standardize notarial requirements and procedures.” I’ll freely admit that my knowledge of the subject leaves me unable to assess how different the provisions of the new law are to current practice, but whether the following provisions will be new or are already in place, they are conspicuous in light of this increase in the prominence of political notaries:
- Another person can sign for somebody who is “physically unable to sign a record.” That inability is not defined, but it seems likely to include not only physical impairment (like broken hands), but also an inability to write for any other reason. (“Physically,” in this reading, would be meant as a distinction to prevent people from signing for somebody who can’t sign because he or she is somewhere else, for instance.)
- Notaries in other states or even other countries would be able to verify signatures.
- Notaries could accept “signatures” by digital technology, meaning “an electronic symbol, sound, or process.”
- Notaries don’t need to check ID if “the individual is personally known to the notarial officer.”
- To the extent that ID is needed, a notary can accept IDs that have expired within the prior three years.
- “Errors” don’t carry any penalty unless they can be shown to be outright fraud.
In short, it’s very easy to see how notaries could haul in votes as if with fishing nets even without doing anything fraudulent, and be separated with several layers of ambiguity from actual fraud.