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2023 March Fong Eu Achievement Award Recipient: Jay Ashcroft

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft knows how critical the work of Notaries is to the economy and society. A Notary himself, Ashcroft was elected in 2016 as his state’s top Notary official. He soon realized that Missouri needed new electronic and remote notarization regulations, and paper notarial practices also needed an overhaul.

“We wanted to take a holistic approach to notarial acts. We didn’t want to tell individuals they needed to work remotely online or on paper. We wanted them to choose, depending on their circumstances and what works best for them,” he said. “Plus, we wanted to make it easier for the average person to understand the law and the requirements.”

As Secretary of State he and his team crafted a comprehensive bill for the state’s Notaries that would modernize traditional notarization and provide comprehensive guidelines for electronic and remote online notarization. For spearheading legislation that gives Missouri Notaries a path to evolve into the electronic and Remote Online Notaries Public of the future, Missouri Secretary of State John R. “Jay” Ashcroft has been selected as the 2023 recipient of the March Fong Eu Achievement Award.

The March Fong Eu Achievement Award is presented each year to an individual who improves the standards, professionalism and effectiveness of the Notary Public office in the United States. The award was established in 1979 in honor of the late California Secretary of State March Fong Eu.

Ashcroft’s new law, Missouri HB 1655, took effect on August 28, 2020, amidst the global pandemic that had Notaries notarizing documents in parks, on the hoods of their cars and even through windows. Everyone knew that a remote option for notarization was critical. Allowing electronic and remote notarization in Missouri helped Notaries and the companies and individuals needing their services safely get more work done.

“I wish I could say that when COVID came up we wrote it in a matter of weeks, but unfortunately, it took me about three years and a global pandemic to get it passed through the legislature,” Ashcroft laughed.

NNA Vice President of Government Affairs Bill Anderson said, “This was a sweeping overhaul of Missouri’s notarial laws, which is a huge and significant accomplishment for any state. The Secretary has basically bridged the traditional Notary of the past with the future, thus professionalizing the Notary office in Missouri.”

The law includes standards for electronic notarization and remote online Notaries (RON). In-person electronic notarizations (IPEN) occur when the Notary and a signer physically meet face-to-face, using electronic signatures and documents. For RON, the Notary and the signer may be in different locations and use audio-visual communication technology with electronic signatures and records. Some of the key provisions of the new law for all three types of notarization include the following:

    • Electronic Notaries and Remote Online Notaries are required to take a course and pass an exam, which was already a requirement for paper-based Notaries
    • An electronic journal requirement for both IPEN and RON
    • The fee for paper-based notarial acts was raised from $2 to $5, while IPEN and RON Notaries can negotiate for an additional fee to compensate for the use of technology to perform these acts
    • Notary Signing Agents may collect an additional fee for their services
    • Vendors who have been granted permission to make notarial seals must confirm the Notary’s standing
    • Strengthening the identification requirements for all signers and specifying requirements for identifying remotely based signers

“HB 1655 wins the distinction of being the most comprehensive Notary reform legislation in recent decades,” Anderson said. “At a time when most states are enacting large RON bills, Missouri chose to overhaul its paper notarization statutes, amend its IPEN laws and add RON provisions, all in one bill. That is definitely to be commended and emulated.”

Ashcroft stated that he wished more states would follow Missouri’s example. “I encourage other states to do everything they can to make it easy for Notaries and other individuals to go about their daily lives,” he said. “We need to make sure government works well because that’s what we’re supposed to do. The easier it is for people to trust notarial acts, the easier it is for people to make those binding contracts that help economic activity to grow and continue. And that’s good for everyone.”

When informed he was the recipient of the NNA’s prestigious March Fong Eu award, Ashcroft said it was unexpected. “It was a very pleasant surprise. Frankly, I was just so happy that after three years we finally got the bill passed! For me, it was just an additional bonus that someone would give me an award for just trying to do my job the best I could,” he said. “Although it’s being given to me, it was the work of the people in my office that made it happen. Thanks goes to my staff because they really did all the hard work.”

1 Comment

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Terral Stevens

13 Jul 2023

Send update information and any new policies that might arise during my notary hours

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