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Social Distancing Spurs the Introduction of Remote Online Notarization Legislation
Mar 20, 2020
Photo credit: Getty Images/Motortion

Due to the proliferation of the American workforce becoming more remote throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Mark Warner (D-VA) have introduced the “Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (S. 3533),” bipartisan legislation that permits the immediate nationwide use of remote online notarization (RON) with minimum standards and provide certainty for the interstate recognition of RON. This technology allows the consumer and notary to be in different locations using two-way audio-visual communication to securely execute electronic documents.
“With the need for social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus, we want to provide options to consumers to close their transaction remotely nationwide,” said Diane Tomb, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “We applaud the leadership of Sens. Kevin Cramer and Mark Warner for introducing The Secure Notarization Act, which offers a safe alternative to help get transactions completed during this health crisis. The strong standards in this bill are important to prevent fraud and offer consumers a more secure alternative rather than FaceTime or Skype when buying property or refinancing a mortgage.”
The SECURE Notarization Act would authorize all notaries to perform RONs, requires tamper-evident technology in electronic notarizations and provides fraud prevention through use of multifactor authentication.
“Americans shouldn’t have to risk their health or safety to execute important financial or legal documents, especially when they could do so from the safety of their own home,” Sen. Cramer said. “The Secure Notarization Act brings the notary process into the 21st Century, allowing people to securely complete documents while still following recommended health and social practices amid the coronavirus pandemic.”
While RON won’t be available for every transaction, it does provide another closing option in some circumstances. This could be extremely valuable for people looking to refinance.
“Virginia has safely and securely allowed the use of remote notarizations for years,” Sen. Warner said. “At a time when most people should be staying at home, there’s no reason anyone should have to leave just to get notary services.”
The Secure Notarization Act would:
►Authorize every notary in the U.S. to perform RON.
►Require tamper-evident technology in electronic notarizations.
►Provide fraud prevention through use of multifactor authentication for identity proofing and audio-visual recording of the notarial act.
►Allow signers outside the U.S., such as military personnel and their families, to easily and securely notarize documents.
►Complement existing state laws, while allowing states the flexibility and freedom to implement their own RON standards.
►Builds on the foundations of the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations (IRON Act of 2011), while adding additional consumer safeguards.
►Follow a similar structure of complementary state and federal legislation, such as the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA).
►Implement 2018 Treasury Report recommendations that Congress consider legislation to provide a minimum uniform national standard for electronic and remote online notarizations. Noting federal legislation is not mutually exclusive with continued efforts at the state level to enact a framework governing the use of electronic methods for financial documents requiring notarization.
The Secure Notarization Act wouldn’t:
►Impede consumer choice.
►Preempt state laws that adhere to uniform consumer protections, such as those laws based on the non-partisan model state law—Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, 2018—proposed by the Uniform Law Commission.
►Infringe upon state data privacy laws.
►Impact state law on testamentary wills and trusts.
►Change state law governing the practice of law.
►Favor specific technology or restrict the use of new and emerging advancements.

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