ACLU of Utah to argue for online signatures

Published May 24, 2010 5:35 pm
Lawsuit » The group will represent candidate before the Supreme Court on June 2.
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Associated Press Writer

SALT LAKE CITY » The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said Monday it will represent gubernatorial hopeful Farley Anderson in a court case to determine whether Lt. Gov. Greg Bell should count electronic signatures and place Anderson's name on the ballot this fall.

The Lieutenant Governor's Office has rejected Anderson'spapers, saying the independent candidate didn't get the required 1,000 signatures. Including more than 150 e-signatures, Anderson contends he did.

"For the lieutenant governor to reject that showing of support should concern every voter and every citizen of the state of Utah," said ACLU legal director, Darcy Goddard.

No state currently accepts electronic signatures to get a candidate or an issue on the ballot and Anderson is hoping his case will start a trend to change that.

"If you want to see a guinea pig, look at me," he said. "How refreshing for something bold and empowering to come from this state."

The Utah Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case June 2.

Assistant Attorney General Thom Roberts has asked the court to deny Anderson's request, saying he failed to meet statutory requirements to get on the ballot. State law only contemplates a paper-based system with voters applying their signatures to a signature sheet, Roberts said in a court filing.

The court's decision could preview a similar showdown on the use of e-signatures to get initiatives and referendums on the ballot. Utahns for Ethical Government requested Monday to file a friend of the court brief supporting electronic signatures.

The bipartisan group is trying to get an ethics initiative on the ballot in 2012. Among other things, the initiative would create an independent ethics commission, a code of conduct for state lawmakers and limit campaign contributions.

Gathering signatures online would allow candidates and initiative supporters to get on the ballot without the costly and time consuming process of traveling the state -- often the biggest roadblock citizen groups face.

To get an initiative on the ballot, supporters have to get about 95,000 signatures from registered voters in 26 of the state's 29 Senate districts.

Utahns for Ethical Government had hoped to get the initiative on the 2010 ballot, but failed to get enough signatures in several Senate districts.

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