Election Updates and New Guidance for Remote Notarizations from SOS

Posted on April 14, 2020 by Herasanna Richards

As we approach the final week before the April 21st candidate filing deadline, the League continues to work with the Governor’s Office, Secretary of State, and legislative leadership to address the issues of gathering petitions signatures for the filing deadline and the anticipated increased costs for the May 5th, 2020 elections.  

At the end of March, the Secretary of State requested the April 21st candidate filing deadline be extended to accommodate those unable to gather petition signatures during the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order. While Governor Whitmer maintains that the decision is being discussed internally, no further direction from either SOS or the Governor has been provided, and the filing deadline remains in place. 

The League is communicating daily with both the Governor’s Office and SOS and working actively to collaborate on possible solutions. With limited time remaining, we are actively encouraging the Governor to address this and provide local candidates the flexibility to file for office safely either through an extension of the deadline or an allowance to file by paying a fee like other offices. League members are encouraged to continue reaching out to the Governor, Secretary of State, and their state legislators to express the importance of providing a solution to this issue.

In the absence of any executive action, the April 21, 2020 candidate filing deadline remains intact. Creative solutions may be necessary for candidates to secure the necessary number of signatures to qualify for the ballot. Several MML members have volunteered some helpful ideas to gather signatures: 

  • Mail or email individual petition forms to family, friends and other households of supporters. Request for petitions to be mailed back or picked up.
  • Coordinate with neighbors/residents ahead of time, print and drop off the petition forms, have a resident sign as the petition and also sign the petition as the circulator.
    • Forms can also be emailed, printed by the signer and left outside for the candidate to collect. 

Guidelines for circulating and canvassing city/township nominating and qualifying petition forms can be viewed here.

As discussions continue on the circulation of petitions ahead of the filing deadline, Governor Whitmer has taken action with EO 2020-41 on another component of the filing process. This new E.O. eases the state law’s in-person notary requirements and encourages the use of electronic/remote notarization as much as possible. Effective immediately, the Bureau of Elections will now accept electronically/remotely notarized Affidavits of Identity. Candidates needing a notarization are encouraged to have their Affidavit of Identity remotely notarized before filing.

According to the Secretary of State, if you are going to notarize an Affidavit of Identity or any document using a videoconference technology, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • The audiovisual technology must allow direct interaction between the signer and the notary by sight and sound;
  • You must create an audio and visual recording of the notarization which must be maintained for 10 years;
  • You must keep a journal of each transaction you conduct using video conference technology. The journal should state the name and address of an individual, the date of the notarization, the type of document being notarized, the identification documentation provided, and the program you are using to conduct the video conference (e.g. skype, zoom, etc.);
  • Satisfactory evidence of identity must be presented during the video conference. The evidence used to verify identity is the same as it is currently, but it must be shown during the live video feed;
  • The individual seeking notarial services must state whether he or she is physically located in this state. If the person is located in another state, the document must relate to a matter going before a court, governmental entity, public official or an entity in this state, or the document must involve property located in this state;
  • Signatures must be affixed in a manner that renders any future changes or modification to be evident; and
  • You must place the phrase: “Notarized using electronic/remote technology” under the notary bloc.

In response to concerns over a potential shortage of poll workers for the May 5th elections, Secretary Benson has initiated a statewide call for election day volunteers via the website

At this time, 60 jurisdictions are proceeding with a May 5th election. Communities moving forward with a May 5th election are encouraged to record any additional expenses due to the increased number of mail-in ballots along with any other COVID-19 related expenses to assist with securing additional state or federal funding that may become available. 

As new information develops, we will continue to provide members with updates as they become available. 

Herasanna Richards is a legislative associate handling energy, environmental, elections, and external municipal services for the League. She can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0309.

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