Court Nixes Notary Rule

Gurich

The state’s highest court sided with advocates for making voting easier earlier this week when it ruled that absentee ballots need not be notarized to be valid.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court voted 5-4 to issue the order.

Chief Justice Noma Gurich read the order on Monday that struck down a requirement that absentee ballots must be notarized.

The order bars the Oklahoma Election Board from issuing ballot forms or other election materials that suggest notarization is required.

Instead, the order said, a statement signed, dated and declared under the penalty of perjury will suffice on absentee ballots. 

The order from the Oklahoma Supreme Court requires the state election board to recognize the signed statements as proof that said voter did fill out their own ballot.

The court’s ruling gives a win to the League of Women Voters, which sued the board over the notary requirement in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The group said the notary requirement was a “substantial obstacle” that absentee voters would have to face if they chose not to cast an in-person ballot due to concerns about the virus crisis.

Cancer survivor Peggy Winston said she joined the lawsuit because she believed undoing the notary requirement could save lives.

“This is a victory for every Oklahoma voter who wants to exercise the right to vote, but not risk their lives to do so,” she said.

Paul Ziriax, the state election board secretary, opposed doing away with the notary requirement, saying he had concerns about voter fraud.

 “Although I respect the decision of the court and will follow the ruling to the utmost of my ability, this decision, effectively, leaves Oklahoma without a means to verify that the person who signs an absentee ballot affidavit is the same person to whom the ballot was issued,” he said.

Secretary Ziriax said the board had previously purchased and printed ballots. 

A spokesman for the board said the ballots will not need to be reprinted, but modifications will have to be made to the ballot instructions and accompanying materials.

A majority of the justices concurred with the decision.  Justices James Winchester, Dustin Rowe and M. John Kane IV dissented.

June 5 is the last day to register to vote in the primary election. 

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is 5 p.m. on June 25. 

Voters can request an absentee ballot online at ok.gov/elections/Voter_Info/Absentee_Voting.

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