Assembly Approves CSAC Vital Records Bill
Unanimous Vote Re: Electronic Requests
June 2, 2016
Legislation that would allow counties the option of providing an entirely electronic process for requesting one’s own vital records has made it to the Senate after a unanimous “Aye” vote from the California State Assembly.
AB 2636 would amend Health and Safety Code §103526 to allow local jurisdictions to provide consumers with the option to complete an online request for vital records digitally, consistent with the current practices of more than 33 other states. Specifically, an official choosing to offer this option would provide a multilayered remote identity authentication method to establish the identity of the requestor and their acknowledgement as an authorized person electronically.
The electronic transaction will be subject to compliance with the California Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. Currently, a person requesting a certified copy of a vital record online must complete their request offline by separately executing a notarized affidavit of identity with a notary. The online request is not processed until the requestor mails or hand delivers the notarized affidavit to the Registrar’s office.
The current process presents challenges for persons who do not have ready access to a notary or who lack formal identification. This includes persons who may reside overseas, are in the military, or do not have a valid driver’s license or identification (e.g., indigent or homeless customers). For every one of these requests, the individual has to separately complete an affidavit of identity with a notary, even though in 2013, AB 464 (Chapter 78, Statutes of 2013) took the first step in allowing persons to make part of their request for copies of vital records online.
The current process is increasingly out of step with trends to increase access to vital government services through online technologies; AB 2636 would streamline the request process by allowing people the option to complete their request online without the need to send a separate notarized affidavit.
California and Minnesota are the only two states in the nation which currently require a notarized statement in conjunction with the online request. The option of being able to fully submit an electronic request will significantly reduce processing time for customers. This process will also reduce the overall cost for obtaining copies of vital records. For example, the current fee for a certified copy of a birth certificate in Los Angeles County ranges from $23 to $28. The average notary fee for an affidavit is as much as $20.
The total fee for someone requesting this record under the current system of a partial online request could be as much as $50. Contra Costa County processed 5,628 electronic orders last year – the staff time involved in document matching would have saved the county 1,426 staff hours or approximately 35 weeks of work that could have been dedicated to other tasks. Santa Clara County processed 12,277 electronic orders last year. The staff time involved in document matching would have saved the county 3,112 staff hours or approximately 77 weeks of work.
The Assembly approved AB 2636 after CSAC amended the bill to address issues raised by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The bill is awaiting a hearing date in the Senate Judiciary Committee.