Completing transactions with the government of Guam could be done from a distance under a proposed bill that seeks to modernize public sector operations.
Sen. Mary Camacho Torres has introduced legislation authorizing remote online notarization (RON) services on Guam.
If enacted, Bill 369-35 would allow documents to be notarized through audio-video conferencing—providing a safe and secure alternative to traditional transactions involving a notarial act.
While Guam law has authorized the use of electronic signatures and records since 2015 through Public Law 33-15, notarizations are still conducted in the physical presence of a notary public, even if the documents to be notarized are in electronic form.
While eNotarization and remote notarization sound similar, tech experts noted a key difference. eNotarization allows documents to be signed and notarized digitally but requires the signer to be present in the same room as the notary. The latter takes that one step further and allows documents to be signed and notarized digitally and without the requirement of being in the same room, building, state, or in some cases the same country.
Torres’ proposal would update this by permitting an individual to appear before a notary public remotely via two-way audio and video communication.
To protect against fraud, the bill adopts rules and regulations providing multiple layers of identity verification. These include a requirement for presentation of photo ID, credential analysis, identity proofing, and a digital recording of an audio/video communication capturing the notarization of documents.
An online notary public must also require that an individual demonstrate he is neither under duress nor coerced to complete the transaction. The notary is further authorized to refuse to perform a notarial act if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an individual is acting under coercion or undue influence.
Should the bill become law, Torres would add Guam to a growing list of states with RON on the books. Currently, 23 states have authorized remote online notarization services while several more have issued executive orders in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
“While modernizing Guam’s Notary Act has always been necessary to keep up with the times, the recent pandemic has brightened the spotlight on the need for remote practices,” Torres said. “Bill 369 would enable parties to conduct important transactions without compromising the integrity of notarial acts or current social distancing requirements.”
The first state RON statute was implemented in Virginia in 2011, and the practice has rapidly gained widespread acceptance.
In at least eight states, RON is temporarily authorized by emergency order to respond to the need to maintain social distance in the global pandemic. In a few of these states, RON is authorized until the end of the state’s declared public emergency.