Everyone deserves the right to vote safely, said Danielle Lehman, steering her innovative mind toward Curbside Notary — an effort to connect Missouri mail-in voters with notaries at easy-to-access locations like coffee shops and restaurants.
“I started thinking about, ‘Where are people visiting every day?’ A lot of people go get their coffee in the morning, so why not bring your ballot along and just get it quickly notarized?” said Lehman, the serial entrepreneur and podcast host behind the COVID-era Curbside KC restaurant platform.
Missouri is one of three states that requires a notary to sign-off on mail-in ballots. The Show Me State also does not allow for voters to track mailed-in ballots, nor allow for same-day registration and voting, according to NBC News’ interactive voting map.
And while a majority of states have loosened regulations on voting-by-mail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lehman said, requiring a notary — someone legally authorized to serve as a witness for signatures on documents — defeats the purpose of providing social-distanced voting.
“We’re living in an unprecedented time where a lot of people feel like they need to choose between their health and voting — that really frustrated me, and it felt like a problem I could help solve,” Lehman said.
Once word started getting out, she said, Lehman had an overwhelming amount of support from other businesses owners wanting to host events. Though she had become a notary herself as part of the effort, Lehman alone couldn’t take on the plethora of business locations. She’s now working on a comprehensive how-to kit for hosting a notary event, she said.
Among the upcoming locations: Ruby Jeans Juicery is welcoming Curbside Notary and mail-in voters 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13 at its 30th Street and Troost Avenue location; and Heirloom Bakery is planning an event 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 401 E. 63rd St. in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here to make an appointment.
Along with potential partner businesses, Lehman said she’s heard from more than 100 notaries who want to volunteer.
Click here read the full list of upcoming Curbside Notary events and make an appointment.
Curbside Notary follows Curbside KC, Lehman’s initiative founded in March to help Kansas Citians stay informed on what services local restaurants were offering during the early days of the COVID-19.
Since then, Curbside KC has shifted to more of a resource for restaurant owners trying to survive the pandemic, Lehman said.
“There are health and safety resources, like where to get tested if there’s an exposure at the restaurant, along with marketing tips that are helpful for small business owners,” she said. “We have a disclaimer on the Curbside KC website that says the listing of each restaurant’s services are pretty old, so it is best to check with the restaurant to be sure it is still accurate.”
Click here to read about Curbside KC’s work with local restaurants.
Missouri residents must be registered to vote by Wednesday, Oct. 7. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Wednesday, Oct. 21, but Lehman suggests requesting a mail-in ballot as soon as possible.
“Ballots will start to be sent out after Sept. 22,” she said. “So as soon as you get it, fill out your ballot and make an appointment with a notary immediately — so that you can mail it back in. Our first event is Monday, Sept. 28.”
Lehman urged people not to wait, as ballots must be received by Election Day — Nov. 3 — to be counted.
Kansas City Community Centers are also offering free notary services.
Click here for more information on their services.