Public attention in 2012 focused heavily on what Notaries do and how they do it, largely in response to major fraud concerns. As a result, legislators in many states started taking a close look at Notary laws and procedures, and passed several new measures. Here’s a look four laws enacted in the past year that make significant changes to state Notary regulations.
California: Effective January 1, AB 2326 expands California’s signer thumbprint requirement for journals to include any notarization for a document that affects real property as well as prohibiting proofs of execution by subscribing witness on documents affecting real property. Because of the broad potential of documents that fall into the category of “affecting real property,” California Notaries may face difficulties clearly recognizing whether a document being notarized requires a journal thumbprint or not. The 2013 edition of the NNA’s California Notary Law Primer includes a partial list of known real property documents that may require a journal thumbprint from a signer.
Iowa: Senate File 2265, which takes effect January 1, makes significant changes the state’s existing Notary practices. The new law specifies that a notarization must be performed in the presence of a notarial officer and clearly states that Notaries may refuse a notarization if not satisfied the signer is competent or willingly making the signature. The law also adds new standards for identifying document signers, prohibited acts and grounds for which the Secretary of State may deny, suspend or revoke the commission of a Notary. .
Nebraska: Legislative Bill 398, now in effect, clarifies that Notaries — with limited exceptions for attorneys, real estate brokers and corporate officers — are disqualified from performing notarial acts if the Notary benefits from the transaction or is named in the transaction. It also repeals “protests,” an obsolete notarial act that has been misused by extremist groups to harass public officials with fraudulent document filings.
Oklahoma: Senate Bill 1466 implements new rules to curb absentee voter fraud. Absentee ballots in Oklahoma require a notarized signature on an affidavit that is part of the ballot. This law, now in effect, requires Notaries to maintain a record when notarizing all absentee ballot affidavits for a minimum of two years after the date of the election, making Oklahoma the latest state to require Notaries to maintain a journal record of notarial acts. The law also limits individual Notaries to notarizing a maximum of 20 absentee ballots during a single election unless written approval is granted by the secretary of the county election board. SB 1466 re-institutes journal recordkeeping requirements for at least some notarial acts after the state repealed its previous journal requirements for Notaries in 2001.