Electronic Voter Signatures – continued

We reported in our post on Electronic Voter Signatures about an initiative being organized to get Utah to set up a system for voters to sign petitions online.  As the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune point out, there are lots of reasons why this system would be favorable (along with precedents proving the favorableness and effectiveness of such a system) and barriers in the current Utah law to prevent citizen initiatives from succeeding.

….you can buy licenses and pay fees to state government over the Internet, register your car, file your tax returns. If security for e-commerce transactions with the state is good enough to protect people’s bank accounts and identity from hackers, it should be good enough to prevent fraud when someone files an electronic signature on a petition.

Such a system, as the Trib editors point out, would also make it easier for our state elections office clerks to verify signatures, rather than the old fashioned way of wading through mountains of petition papers, deciphering handwriting legibility, etc.

However the law as currently written creates barriers to citizen initiatives.

It might be tough to convince a court that the Legislature intended to make the signature-gathering process for petitions as simple as putting up a secure Web site. The language of the statutes on initiatives is full of nit-picky requirements that make it hard to gather signatures the old-fashioned way. The Legislature has labored mightily over the years to create ever-higher procedural barriers to lawmaking by citizen initiative.

The constitutional rights of the people – power of the people –  will need to be the effect of change.

….the Utah Constitution places the power of the people to make laws through initiatives on an equal plane with the power of the Legislature, an inconvenient truth that legislators often ignore.

….the Web’s power to extend the arms of democratic action is limitless. That’s why legislators may not like it, but the people should embrace it. And if they are true to the spirit of the constitution they are sworn to serve, election officials will embrace it, too.

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