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Oklahoma Supreme Court Overturns Notary Requirement

 

In a 6-3 decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has struck down a requirement that absentee ballots be validated by a notary of the public, according to a Tulsa World story.

The Oklahoma chapter of the League of Women Voters had challenged the requirement in an effort to ensure ballot access during elections potentially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The brief majority decision, authored by Chief Justice Noma Gurich, found that the Oklahoma State Election Board must accept alternate affidavits outlined in Title 12, Section 426 by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2002. Joined by Vice Chief Justice Richard Darby, Justice Yvonne Kauger, Justice James Edmondson, Justice Tom Colbert and Justice Doug Combs, Gurich wrote that the Election Board’s notary requirement for absentee ballots was not covered by exemptions to the 2002 affidavit statute.

“Therefore, respondent is directed to recognize affidavits made under the provisions of Section 426 in the context of absentee voting,” Gurich wrote. “Respondent is further ordered to send absentee ballot voters such forms, instructions and materials as will facilitate the use of [the alternate affidavit statute]. Respondent is barred from issuing ballot forms, instructions and materials suggesting notarization and/or a notarized affidavit form is the only means through which the requisite affidavit for absentee voting may be accomplished.”

In one of two dissenting opinions, Justice John Kane and Justice James Winchester wrote:

I conclude that our existing statutes do not provide the relief proposed by the petitioners, so the issues stand presented to the wrong branch of government. I dissent.

New Supreme Court Justice Dustin Rowe issued his own dissent, calling the resultant change “absurd.”

“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.”

Information about notarization in Oklahoma law is posted on the Secretary of State’s website, which will have to be updated. Those interested in requesting absentee ballots can do so by visiting the Election Board website.

 

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