E-NOTARY/RON: UNIFORM RULES, UNIVERSAL ACCEPTANCE
Opportunity (future state)
Widespread adoption of electronic notarization among the states extends the use of electronic signatures in sectors where the use of notarized documents is either statutorily required or considered a best practice. For ESRA, it presents an OPPORTUNITY to advance its mission as the preeminent authority on electronic signatures.
Threatens (future state)
While the recent activity surrounding remote online notary (RON) can be considered an opportunity to further promote the adoption of electronic signatures and records, the current situation presents a THREAT to future adoption because it is likely to result in a patchwork of nonuniform laws that will reduce acceptance of notarized documents between the states, and perhaps even create a two-tiered system that treats electronic notarial acts as less reliable.
Current laws (UETA and ESIGN) permit the use of electronic notarization in every state. However, there is little agreement among the states on whether and how these foundational laws provide sufficient legal authority and direction to enable a state to permit electronic notarization or to acknowledge electronic notarizations from within or outside their jurisdictions.
ESRA has established its support for electronically enabled notarial acts, and it has promoted adoption of new technological means of performing the notarial function, as long as such means are aligned with ESRA’s policy principles. The issue of physical presence in the performance of a notarial act has become a pivotal question, and many states are considering new legislation to either explicitly permit — or explicitly prohibit — a notary public to witness a signature from a remote location. While states like Virginia and Nevada have already enacted laws to permit so-called remote notary, others have expressed opposition and have even refused to acknowledge the validity of such acts. Bills and model legislation have been introduced that are not uniform in their definitions of personal presence or their interpretations of current model e-commerce statutes such as UETA, URPERA and RULONA. Some organizations are seeking a rapid adoption of their model laws, while the uniform law commission is considering developing its own draft, which would take 1-2 years to produce.
Universal acknowledgment of the validity of electronically-enabled notarization within and between states, and consistent, accurate information made available to notaries public by their notary administrators, including a clarification that electronically-enabled notarization is permitted and supported. Promote a set of principles that should guide notary law and policy regarding remote notarial acts; influencers and decision-makers would use these principles in developing consistent rules or laws.