Columbia notaries have been busy the past few weeks helping people who are voting by mail get their ballots notarized and ensure their votes count.
This year’s presidential election has seen thousands of people voting early, either by mail or by casting absentee ballots in person. Many of those voting by mail must have their envelope notarized to verify they are who they say they are.
Logan Sutherland, a notary public and an investigator for University Hospital security, said he meets people at the hospital when possible, but, because access to the hospital is limited, he more often goes to a person’s house or workplace to notarize their ballot after work. He’s been unable to help people in nursing homes because they aren’t accepting visitors, including notaries.
Sutherland said he has had requests to notarize about 30 mail-in ballots and 10 absentee ballots for this election, compared with just three in the 2016 presidential election.
J. Scott Christianson mostly notarizes ballots on his front porch, which is close to downtown. Both he and the voter wear masks and maintain their distance. The only contact he has is with the person’s ID and an envelope.
He occasionally notarizes at other locations, like retirement homes. One that he recently went to had a meeting room reserved for notarizing, and it’s equipped with a Plexiglass barrier to keep people apart.
Christianson doesn’t mind accommodating people by meeting at various spots.
“I think everyone must have the opportunity to vote,” he said. “I wish we would make Election Day a holiday.”
Notary public Cynthia Youmans has been meeting people and notarizing ballot envelopes at Columbia Public Library, a location the Secretary of State’s Office recommended. The library has plenty of precautions set up during the pandemic, and Youmans always wears a mask, sanitizes her hands and cleans her equipment before and after a meeting.
She has also made some house calls, where she takes the same measures as she does at the library.
“I am mindful of any additional or special precautions that need to be considered during these visits,” Youmans said.
Christianson said the job hasn’t been terribly demanding.
“There are lots of places that are providing the service,” Christianson said.
Christianson is an associate teaching professor of management at MU’s Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business. He has notarized ballots for three of his students this year.
Youmans said she’s actually notarizing few ballots this time around because there was a lot more demand when she worked at a law firm, where being a notary was a useful specialization that she didn’t anticipate putting to work outside the firm — until the pandemic. This is her first year as a volunteer notary.
“I heard about the list of notaries this year and wanted to be able to provide assistance to individuals who need or want to mail in their ballots during the pandemic,” Youmans said.
Youmans said she’s been getting requests for notarizations about once or twice a week.
Sutherland said he provides the notary service for free. “I’m happy to help out persons unable to get out and vote.”
Garlandra King, a branch manager at Missouri Credit Union, said all the requests for her notary services have been for mail-in ballots within the last week. She has notarized seven mail-in ballots in October.
King has been a notary for almost six years.
“I have never notarized more documents relating to voting,” she said.