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NH tries remote online notarization during coronavirus

Apr 14, 2020

BY: Citizens Count

After declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Sununu issued an executive order to allow remote online notarization.   

New Hampshire was considering remote online notarization before the pandemic and many states already allow it.  Is this emergency policy a keeper? 

What is remote online notarization? 

Notarization is a process to verify that a document is authentic, a signature is genuine, and the person signing is not coerced.  Notarization may be required for contracts, power of attorney, vehicle transfers, and more. 

New Hampshire law requires a person to physically appear before a notary public.  Employees at banks, post offices, courts, libraries, and more serve as notaries public. 

Remote online notarization allows notary public to virtually witness a signature through a videoconference. 

How does it work in NH? 

Gov. Sununu’s executive order outlines the process for remote online notarization during the New Hampshire state of emergency. 

A person must enter a videoconference with the notary public.  The whole videoconference must be recorded.  The notary public must verify the person’s identity and watch the person sign the document.  The signee then sends the document to the notary public for a final signature. 

Is remote online notarization a keeper 

Several states allowed remote online notarization before the coronavirus emergency.  Notaries in those states typically use specific software for remote online notarization, to protect privacy and security. 

Supporters argue that remote online notarization is a great convenience for people who have trouble getting to a notary in person, such as rural residents and people with disabilities. 

Opponents are concerned about the possibilities for fraud, hacking, and privacy violations.  Gov. Sununu’s executive order allowing remote online notarization does not require any particularly secure software when recording the process. 

What’s next for remote online notarization in NH? 

Before the coronavirus emergency, the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill to study the use of remote online notarization in New Hampshire.  The state House and Senate suspended all legislative activity until at least May 4, so the future of the bill is uncertain. 

Meanwhile the U.S. Senate is considering legislation to allow remote online notarization nationwide. 

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