Taking the Oath of Office in the Era of Virtual Meetings

December 7, 2020

State law contains a “remote online notary public” option that would permit the oath to be taken in a virtual format if the notary complies with all statutory requirements.

With many cities holding virtual council meetings, some are wondering about the ability of incoming council members to take the oath of office in a virtual format.

The oath of office contains an oral and written component, typically performed at the same time. The written component requires a signature from the incoming council member.

Minnesota law considers the oath of office an “acknowledgement” for purposes of Minnesota Statutes, chapter 358. An acknowledgment requires the incoming council member to personally appear before a notary public, except as noted below. The city clerk or any other registered notary public may acknowledge the oath of office, including out-of-state notary publics registered in other states.

The oath of office need not be taken at a council meeting and can be taken in person prior to the inception of the new council term. Those oaths taken in person or during a council meeting will want to observe COVID-19 social distancing and masking requirements.

Minnesota Statutes, section 358.645 does contain a “remote online notary public” option that would permit the oath to be taken in a virtual format if the notary complies with all statutory requirements.

What is meant by ‘remote online notary public?’

A remote online notary public may notarize electronic documents using audio and video communication technology. To do this, a currently registered notary public must first register as a “remote online notary public” with the Minnesota Office of Secretary of State (OSS) and identify the audio and video technology they will use to administer the oath.

The law requires simultaneous video and audio, so Zoom, Skype, Teams, or similar technology would suffice.

Remote online notarization process

A remote online notary public must follow these steps when administering oaths or performing other virtual notarizations:

  • Verify the signer’s identity if the remote online notary does not have personal knowledge of the signer’s identity. If the remote online notary does not have such knowledge, a two-part verification process is required using photo identification and a series of questions and answers.
  • Observe the electronic signature applied by the signer.
  • Apply the remote online notary’s electronic signature and seal to the signed document as part of a “remote online notarial certificate.”
  • Keep an electronic journal of each notarial act that contains pertinent information for each act.
  • Record the video and audio of each notarial act and maintain the recording for at least 10 years.

Learn more about remote online notarization authorization from the OSS website

The OSS website includes a search feature that identifies registered remote online notary publics. A remote online notary public may charge a fee of up to $25 for each remote notarization.

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