Fair Boundaries strongly disagrees with Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell’s decision to follow Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s opinion to preemptively void the signatures of thousands of Utahns simply because they chose to participate in their democracy through electronic means.
“The people of Utah have a solemn right to participate in their democracy by way of an initiative on the ballot. This AG’s opinion stifles that constitutional right and is based on a misinterpretation of both the initiative statute and the Electronic Transactions Act,” says Merrill Nelson, petition sponsor with Fair Boundaries.
Fair Boundaries asserts that America is defined by her citizenry’s innovations and desire to improve the nation we love. In the case of greater civic participation in the drawing of legislative districts, our organization has chosen to work within the letter and spirit of the law and we are confident that electronic signature gathering meets both of these criteria.
Lisa Watts Baskin, attorney for Fair Boundaries feels that “the use of on-line signatures in the initiative process is, in many ways, better than a paper-based process because it makes voter participation more convenient, provides a higher degree of security, and makes signature verification by county officials easier, faster, cheaper, and more accurate.”
Although the state law regarding initiatives refers to gathering signatures on paper, nothing in the statute prohibits acceptance of signatures provided electronically or prevents each signer from certifying their own signature. A “signature may not be denied legal effect” simply because it is in electronic form. Any government agency is authorized to transact business by electronic means.
The Fair Boundaries Coalition therefore calls on Lieutenant Governor Bell to reverse his decision and reject the opinion of Attorney General Shurtleff.
“Fair Boundaries will continue gathering initiative petition signatures both by paper and on-line,” according to Glenn Wright, Field Director for Fair Boundaries. “We invite citizens to visit http://fairboundaries.utahpetitions.org to sign their own electronic petition and bring Utah one step closer to fair legislative districts that represent the people.”