During the first year of the Pandemic, the bipartisan Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act (“Secure Notarization Act”) was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. If passed, the Secure Notarization Act would have immediately authorized every commissioned notary public in the country to complete remote online notarizations. The bill did not become law during that Congress, but it was reintroduced last year to the 117th session of Congress as a sort of SECURE Act 2.0. The bill was reintroduced in both the House and Senate, in June and May of 2021, respectively. While both bills remain pending before the committees to which they were submitted at the time, the House bill has continued to gain sponsors recently.
The House bill was reintroduced with 33 bipartisan sponsors in June 2021. In the past two months House Bill has gained 17 new sponsors among congressional representatives. The makeup of sponsors continues to show bipartisan support for this impactful bill. The Senate bill has seen less recent action, though it did gain a sponsor as recent as February, and its sponsors also show bipartisan support.
The Secure Notarization Act was first introduced in response to the crisis presented by the COVID pandemic and the immediate need to continue to conduct real estate closings, with a legal requirement for persons to be in the physical presence of one another (notary and signer), which violated most of the new restrictions that health professionals were trying to put in place at the time. The first bill did not become law and was reintroduced in the new Congress that started last year.
The bills would immediately authorize any notary commissioned by a state, commonwealth, district, or territory in the United States to complete electronic/remote notarizations and establish minimum standards for those activities across the country. The minimum standards would provide a floor upon which states could build and add additional protections as deemed necessary. Those requirements include minimum requirements for identity proofing and credential analysis in a remotely conducted notarization.
Passage of the Secure Notarization Act would establish requirements for interstate recognition of electronic/remote notarizations and lays out rules for preemption of similar state rules. In addition, signers outside of the United States, such as military personnel and their families, would be able to securely notarize documents.
While the continuing addition of sponsors to these bills would seem to provide positive indications for its passage, there is no guarantee the Secure Notarization Act will be passed in the current Congress.