Notary Questioned About Seal In Smoking Ban Trial

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South Dakota’s smoking ban faces one burning question. Did the notaries who verified the petitions do enough to make them official?

A two-day trial started Thursday in Pierre. The opponents of the ban are only 18 signatures short of getting the issue on the ballot.

Several notaries took the witness stand Thursday and were questioned about how they signed and dated the petitions and if they did it legally.

Linda Wegman was one of the notaries questioned and always thought she had her ‘I’s’ dotted and ‘T’s’ crossed when it came to notarizing documents.

“It’s hard to remember the date so I had my date printed right on it, thought I had all my bases covered,” Wegman said.

Wegman had a customized stamp made to make sure all of her information could be seen clearly. But when she took the witness stand and was questioned about the stamp, she said she never had it registered with the state, and the six petition sheets she stamped were never officially notarized.

“I’ve notarized hundreds and hundreds of documents using that stamp and if anyone wanted to contest it, I guess they [the notarized documents] are all wrong,” Wegman said.

The Secretary of State and the American Cancer Society did contest Wegman’s notarized documents along with several others Thursday. Supporters of the smoking ban are pointing to those miscues as the reason to throw out thousands of signatures.

“The rules are there. Are they tough? That’s not really what we’re here today to argue. The rules are there, the laws are there, the time has past for that,” Darrin Smith with the American Heart Association said.

Notaries were also questioned about only putting the month and year of their expiration date on the petition. The state argues the month, day and year all should have been included.

Opponents say questions about those technicalities are why this issue is in court.

“What’s a complete date, what’s not a complete date? I don’t know. I thought when somebody signed and dated something, 11-09, as far as the year and the month, I thought that was a complete date. But evidently it needs a number too,” smoking ban opponent and Sioux Falls bar owner Don Rose said.

Judge Kathleen Trandahl will hear from more notaries and witnesses Friday. It will ultimately be her decision if the notaries did enough to authenticate the petitions.

source: http://www.keloland.com

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