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Absentee Voting Awareness

October 6, 2004, 5:55 PM by Jodi Schwan

Absentee Voting Awareness

You might say it's never been this easy to vote in South Dakota. Now, you can cast your ballot weeks before the election. You can also request one be sent to you and then mail it in once you've made your decision. But all that election access means there are more people involved in the political process. And not all of them have the legal ability they might claim to have.

If you want to vote early and don't want to go to your county auditor's office to do it, you need to request an absentee ballot application. When you send it in, you need to include a photocopy of your I.D. or your signature witnessed and sealed by a notary. But even if someone claims to be a notary, you might want to double-check.

There's a college rivalry going on at SDSU, and it has to do with political persuasion. Supporters of both senate candidates set up shop vying for young people's votes. Jeff Thune is helping out his uncle John Thune. He and other volunteers are registering students to vote. If they're already registered, they can pick up an absentee application and a ballot will be sent to them.

noter1

Jeff Thune says, "We've absenteed probably about 75 kids now."

They all needed either a photocopied I.D. or a notary to witness it, sign it, and seal it

Jeff Thune says, "As long as you have a notary, which I am a notary, and they witness you filling out one of those requests you're good to go."

But here's the problem. When we checked Jeff Thune's name with the secretary of state's office, we found he's not a commissioned notary. The John Thune campaign told us the volunteer misspoke and is not a notary, nor has he witnessed any applications. They say someone else did that on campus. But that type of incident could become more common in the weeks ahead as political parties push for early votes.

Minnehaha County Auditor Sue Roust says, "We are seeing lots of new notaries because the parties have gotten some of their workers set up to be notaries."

When the auditor's office receives an application, they double-check that the voter is registered. But without a photo I.D. to confirm the identity, the notary's seal is the only other legal safeguard against voter fraud. And auditor Sue Roust says she trusts their legitimacy.

Roust says, "I don't have any question if they are. I've never seen a case of notary fraud. It's so easy to become one there's no particular reason anybody would be motivated to do it illegally."

We also researched the four Daschle supporters who notarize applications at SDSU, as well as another Thune supporter. They are all commissioned notaries.

If you want to check whether someone is a notary, ask to see their certificate from the state or click here to go to the state's web site and search by name or location.

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