Oklahoma’s law has required that absentee/mail-in ballots to be notarized before mailing in. Only THREE states in the nation do, so we are in a sad minority when it comes to making voting accessible for all.
Lots happened this legislative session to bring this issue to our attention…including the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling, striking down the notary requirement. We celebrated…for about a day. Then our Republican-dominated state legislature rushed SB810 through both houses, and Governor Stitt signed in…three days after the Court’s ruling. I agree with the Tulsa World, in these uncertain times, this requirement just adds a burden for voters.
I’ve been watching the legislature closely for over ten years…and I have never seen it move this quickly on an issue. Three. Days. But with complicated differences for the upcoming June 30 primary. For that day only, mail-in ballots can be notarized, or voters can enclose a copy of their photo id, just another complication.
I remember the first time I tried to vote by mail, and the notary requirement intimidated me…but, come to find out, Tag Agencies and banks are required to notarize ballots for free. Easy…IF you have access to a notary. Voting by mail is convenient, and what I appreciated the most is I could sit at home, and research every candidate’s position on the issues I care about. I could research every judge up for re-election. I could study every State Question on the ballot. I have never felt so informed as a voter as when I vote by mail-in ballot. I researched and voted, researched and voted.
There will be an important SQ on this ballot, and I really hope Oklahoma approves the proposed expansion of Medicaid for our citizens who lack access to affordable healthcare. Seems appropriate that we’re voting on this issue in the middle of a global pandemic. So, vote on SQ802.
After SB210 was signed, many of us looked for ways to be helpful, and several of us decided to become notaries public…This is my journey.
I started on the Oklahoma State Department website and clicked on “Notary Filing” on the right side of the page. On the next page, I clicked on “New Commission” and saw the initial charge was $25, for a four-year commission. Not bad. I filled in that info and paid.
Next, I needed to buy a stamp, to sign the loyalty oath, and pay for a surety bond.
I went to Norman Stamp and Seal to complete my application, but I learned there, I could have come to them from the beginning and they would have included that first registration step with the State Department.
I really liked the embossing seal, but went with a small round stamp. Folks at Stamp and Seal walked me next door to an insurance company to finish the application process with my loyalty oath…which must be notarized…for me to become a notary. I admit, we giggled just a bit at that bureaucracy.
Bond charge and stamp charge and filing charge to Stamp and Seal came to $70.99.
Then, I waited for some kind of notification from the State Department that my application had been filed and approved. And waited. And waited.
Today, I checked my ‘account’ on the State Department website, actually looking for a phone number to call and ask, and saw I am now considered an active notary!
With my new commission number, I need to contact my County Election Board and request a waiver to notarize more than 20 ballots for any one election (another sneaky roadblock our state sets for us…nothing’s easy when it comes to exercising our right to vote, is it?). The link to the Cleveland County Notary Limit Exemption Request Form 2020 is on the first page.
Notaries need to request that exemption for each county they may notarize ballots. So, I will probably request an exemption for Oklahoma County, also.
I believe these exemptions are good for one calendar year and must be renewed.
So my journey:
1. Apply on the SOS website for a commission. Pay $25.
2. Work with Norman Stamp and Seal for the stamp, the loyalty oath, and the bond. Pay $71.
3. Norman Stamp and Seal filed my paperwork with SOS.
4. Wait. And wait.
5. Apply for a limit exemption with the county election board.
6. Let my friends know I’ll be available to notarize ballots.
Other notaries skipped my step 1, and went straight to a local company to do everything. Norman Stamp and Seal told me when I went in with my commission papers that most do it that way. In fact, google ‘how to become a notary,’ and here’s another link.
Yay. I’m a Notary Public!
I’m currently printing and reading directions, collecting supplies, and wrapping my head around how to help voters safely for this election, and going forward. I need to create a log to keep track of my work (not sure yet if I file that with anyone).
I’ve joined the Oklahoma Notaries Public Facebook group and have been learning from experts. I can ask my questions there, no matter how silly they appear. I’ll rely on the experts to help me. I’ll be extremely nervous notarizing my first ballot, but I’m eager to make voting as easy and safe as I can for my neighbors.
And I have to make absolutely sure I’m following all the rules: never look at a voter’s actual ballot. Never volunteering to take a ballot and turn it in myself, which is a form of fraud called vote harvesting. A no-no. I will carry stamps for voters to put on their ballots and mail for themselves. But I cannot take that step for voters.
I will put together a kit containing clean pens (blue or black ballpoint), stamps (a ballot takes extra postage…yet another small speed bump in our right to vote), wipes and sanitizer. I want to get ‘I Voted’ stickers for voters. I’ll wear my mask and encourage voters to wear theirs. I’ll practice physical distancing and work to keep us safe. I’ll encourage doing this process outside if at all possible.
I’ll learn as I go and make lots of mistakes.
I will make it clear I’m supporting all voters’ right to cast a mail-in ballot…If you're wondering, the notary never sees the actual ballot. The packet you will receive from the Election Board contains three envelopes. The inner envelope is where the voter deposits their ballot and then seals the envelope. Then, that envelope is placed in a yellow envelope. Notaries witness the voter’s signature on the outside of that envelope. When notarized, the voter places the inner envelope in the self-addressed (not stamped) envelope, places postage ($.85) on the envelope, and mails the ballot.
Don’t be intimidated like I was by the absentee/mail-in voting procedure.
Friday is the deadline to register to vote if you are not a registered voter. Directions to register are here. Applying for your mail-in ballot is easy! You can apply here, receive your ballot and instructions, vote in the comfort of your own home, researching as you go, and reach out to get the ballot notarized. Stay safe this election cycle.
A former student came up with the perfect name for my new endeavor: #Notary4Pleasure. We called my class at North #Reading4Pleasure, so it’s a natural fit!