On-campus vote effort hits snag with notarization

Associated Press

Associated Press

About 1,400 people who applied for an absentee ballot through the South Dakota Republican Party’s get-out-the vote program are being asked to verify their identity in an effort to clear up any mistakes made in the notary process, a GOP official said.

The letters note a procedural error may have been made. To make sure the request for an absentee ballot is valid, the letters ask those making the application to return a copy of a photo ID.

Only a small number of applications might be in question, said Jason Glodt, the party’s executive director. But because it would be difficult to track down that group, a larger mailing makes sure none of the applicants will lose their right to vote, he said.

“There may have been isolated instances of procedural errors in processing some applications,” Glodt said. If there were errors, “this will take care of it. It makes sure there’s no question about whether that vote will count.”

Questions have been raised on some college campuses about whether an individual handling some of the applications was a notary public and whether other applications were legally notarized. Last week six people involved with the GOP get-out-the-vote program resigned.

Glodt said the best way to resolve any questions about the validity of the applications is to have those who request the ballots provide a copy of an identification card.

“This is to protect us, too,” he said. “It’s an extra precaution. Our understanding is, there’s nothing invalid about them (the applications) if the identification was the person it said it was.”

Most of the questions involved absentee-voter programs on campuses in Brookings, Vermillion and Yankton. But a complaint also has surfaced at Black Hills State University in Spearfish.

Jesse Abbott told the Rapid City Journal a man came to his BHSU dorm room asking whether he wanted an absentee ballot, but a woman notarized his ballot application.

The notary, Jennifer Giannonatti, is listed as a get-out-the-vote consultant with a Sioux Falls address on the South Dakota Republican Party’s federal campaign finance report. She was not among the GOP workers who resigned.

State law requires notaries who sign an absentee ballot application to witness the voter signing the application.

Abbott’s story is similar to those reported from students on three East River campuses.

The questions come as Republican John Thune and Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle face each other in a tight race for Daschle’s U.S. senate seat.

Dan Pfeiffer, a spokesman for Daschle’s campaign, said a lot of questions need to be answered before Nov. 2.

“The fact that problems may have arisen with another Republican Party notary beyond those who resigned this week raises questions about how far and wide this spreads,” Pfeiffer said.

Thune campaign manager Dick Wadhams said he is not worried that the investigation will disrupt the get-out-the-vote effort.