Under the Dome

NC’s secretary of state takes heat over immigrant notaries

Elaine Marshall is sworn in as secretary of state during a ceremony January 6, 2017, at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh.
Elaine Marshall is sworn in as secretary of state during a ceremony January 6, 2017, at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh. rwillett@newsobserver.com

A Republican lawmaker is calling on North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall to resign because she has allowed certain noncitizens to serve as notaries.

Marshall, a Democrat who first took office in 1997, says the charge is political and those at the center of complaints are allowed to serve as notaries by federal law.

“The evidence presented to my office reveals that over 320 persons, ineligible to receive a North Carolina notary, were commissioned as notaries by Secretary Marshall over a period of nine years,” said Rep. Chris Millis, a Pender County Republican. “In fact, one notary commissioned by the Secretary was an alien against whom a final order for deportation existed.”

If Marshall does not resign, Millis said he would work to impeach her.

He alleges that over the past nine years Marshall’s office has authorized more than 320 notaries public who were not permanent residents of the United States – such as people in the country illegally who were given temporary protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program.

Millis said he believes authorizing such people to serve as notaries is in “direct conflict with state and federal law.”

State law requires a notary to “reside legally in the United States.” Millis has filed House Bill 392 to tighten that requirement to include only “citizens of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence” as defined by the federal government.

Marshall blamed politics for the dustup Tuesday afternoon.

“This is simply a rehashing of the political attack used by my opponent in the recent election,” Marshall said in a written statement. “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has authorized the specifically mentioned notaries to work here lawfully. That federally authorized status continues to be unchanged by the new Presidential administration.”

Millis, a third-term representative, said he found the 320 names in question after requesting more than 1,700 pages of documents. He said he was most concerned that foreign notaries might be used to witness absentee ballots.

“So, in this era of heightened sensitivity to voter fraud, election interference and tension over immigration policy, North Carolina today – during recent elections cycles; and until the errors of your office are corrected – has commissioned more than 325 alien notaries who can singlehandedly validate fraudulent voters statewide if they are so inclined,” Millis wrote in a letter to Marshall.

Lauren Horsch: 919-836-2801, @LaurenHorsch