(LAKE RIDGE, VA) – Citizens in Charge Foundation, a national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, presented Utah ACLU Legal Director Darcy Goddard with the August 2010 John Lilburne Award. Darcy is honored this month for her work on a groundbreaking e-signature case in which the Utah Supreme Court ruled in June that the state must accept electronic signatures on an independent candidate’s petition.
The Utah Supreme Court is considering the issue of e-signatures and whether they should be used in ballot initiatives. The court is also considering the arguments of Farley Anderson, an independent candidate for Utah governor, who was booted from the ballot on the issue of e-signatures. Anderson and the American Civic Liberties Union ( ACLU) are arguing e-signatures are the same as signing a paper ballot. Another group, Utahns for Ethical Government, has also joined the fight to bring e-signatures on the ballot for all candidates.
A pair of initiatives intended to create independent ethics and redistricting commissions won’t appear on the ballot this fall. The lieutenant governor’s office said Tuesday that neither initiative gathered the required number of signatures to be placed before voters.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah will represent aspiring candidate Farley Anderson as he takes his electronic-signature battle to the state Supreme Court on June 2. In March, Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell rejected Anderson as an independent candidate for governor because a small portion of his required 1,000 signatures were gathered online.
Of the 45 states whose legislatures hold sessions in 2010, 27 of them have adjourned for the year, and 5 more will wrap up before the end of the month. Of the more than 80 bills dealing with the initiative and referendum process in various states, 51 of them would have reduced citizens’ initiative rights. Thanks to the work of activists in our coalitions, only 3 bills reducing citizen’s rights have passed and become law.
State lawmakers make no bones about it, they don’t like citizen initiatives. They contend that the legislative process better serves the electorate because important proposals undergo the legislative hearing process, where members of the public can express their support or concerns for various proposals. Then, the legislation must pass both houses and be signed into law by the governor, who also has the option of a veto.
A federal judge ordered Utah county clerks to keep confidential the names signed electronically on petitions for a “Government Ethics Reform” initiative. Utahns for Ethical Government sued all the county clerks in Utah, claiming it needs the electronic signatures to qualify its initiative for the ballot, but many signers do not want their names made public. Utahns for Ethical Government needs 95,000 signatures to qualify its initiative for the November ballot. It claims to have gathered 77,000 signatures in ink and at least 18,000 “e-signatures.”