Since at least 2000, state and federal legislatures have grappled with creating effective, and secure, methods for document authentication while still utilizing the increasing number of technological advancements created during this time. The demand for one such advancement, Remote Online Notarization (“RON”), became increasingly prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, when most of the United States was subject, at one point or another, to strict lockdown orders. As of May 2021, at least 34 states had enacted statutes that allowed notaries to conduct RONs under certain circumstances. In furtherance of creating a national standard for RONs, on March 18, 2020, the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic (SECURE) Notarization Act of 2020 was introduced in the United States Senate as Bill S.3533.
While the SECURE Notarization Act of 2020 was not signed into law, calls for a uniform standard for remote notarization persisted, specifically from groups such as the American Land Title Association and Mortgage Bankers Association. In connection with continued bipartisan support, on May 13, 2021, Senators Kevin Cramer [R-ND] and Mark Warner [D-VA] introduced Bill S.1625 in order “to authorize notaries public to perform, and to establish minimum standards for, electronic notarizations and remote notarizations that occur in or affect interstate commerce, to require any Federal court to recognize notarizations performed by a notarial officer of any State, to require any State to recognize notarizations performed by a notarial officer of any other State when the notarization was performed under or relates to a public Act, record, or judicial proceeding of the notarial officer's State or when the notarization occurs in or affects interstate commerce […].”
S.1625, which has been labeled by some as the SECURE Notarization Act of 2021, would authorize every notary in the United States to perform RONs. According to the co-sponsors of the Bill, Senators Cramer and Warner, this law is long overdue. “The pandemic exposed several flaws and outdated methods used in the American economy, and the notary process is a prime example,” said Senator Cramer. “Our bill would bring this process into the 21st century, allowing people to securely complete notarized documents remotely, just as they do with many other important forms.” Senator Warner stated, “Remote online notarization is a transformative technology that offers consumers a convenient way to safely and securely complete important documents. While the COVID-19 pandemic presented a number of obstacles to essential tasks such as executing wills, completing financial documents, buying or selling a home, or purchasing or selling a car online, many states demonstrated how to effectively deploy this type of technology to meet the needs of Americans. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill, which would permit nationwide use of remote online notarization, while requiring minimum safety and security standards, and provide certainty for interstate recognition of transactions completed with remote online notarization.”
The SECURE Notarization Act of 2021 is currently being prepared for committee assignment in the Senate. Time will tell whether the 2021 Act will gain more support than its 2020 predecessor.