Utah Electronic Signature Ban Referendum (2012)

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The Utah Electronic Signature Ban Referendum did not make the 2012 ballot in the state of Utah as a veto referendum. The measure would have repealed a ban on electronic signatures on petitions concerning initiatives or candidates seeking ballot access. The bill that the referendum sought to repeal, Senate Bill 165, was passed by state lawmakers on March 9, 2011, when the House voted in favor of passing the proposal to the governor to sign into law.[1]

According to reports, the referendum petition was filed with the Utah Secretary of State, and was done so on March 10, 2011. Utah resident Steve Maxfield, Republican National Committeewoman Nancy Lord and Republican activist Janalee Tobias were sponsors of the initiative.


The issue of electronic signatures being used for ballot access has had a history in the state of Utah since 2010. The following are events that have transpired surrounding the topic:

A proposed 2012 ballot initiative effort that relates to the Utah Ethics Commission had been soliciting signatures online in hopes of gaining ballot access. These signatures, according to Utah state law, were valid substitutes. However, Lieutenant Governor of Utah Greg Bell had not made a decision on the whether or not those signatures were indeed appropriate. Then, on February 10, 2010 both the attorney general and lieutenant governor announced that electronic petition signatures are not valid. "My review and analysis of the statutory provisions indicates that the laws governing initiatives do not contemplate or allow for the use of electronic signatures," said Attorney General Mark Shurtleff in a five-page analysis of the proposed online process.[2][3][4]
The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments in a case regarding online signature solicitation which revolved around Farley Anderson's - an independent gubernatorial candidate - petition signatures that were rejected by the Lieutenant Governor of Utah. However, the case also affects signatures submitted by proponents of the previously mentioned Utah Ethics Commission Initiative. If the high court approved the validity of online signatures, then the initiative may have qualified for the 2012 statewide ballot. The Utah Supreme Court agreed to add initiative petitions to the case. Justices also agreed to allow Utahns for Ethical Government to file a "friend of the court" brief.[5][6][7][8][9]
The Utah Supreme Court unanimously concluded that electronic signatures were just as valid as handwritten signatures and must be accepted by state election officials.[10] However, initiatives were not explicitly discussed in the ruling.[11]
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell issued an interim rule on electronic signatures for initiatives and referendums. According to reports and state documents the new rule would allow the collection of electronic signatures while still maintaining the rules for accountability and integrity of the process. The interim rule would remain valid and in effect for 120 days. For the first 30 days the lieutenant governor's office would take public comments and later determine if a public hearing was necessary. Following that period, state officials would work with the Utah Legislature to establish a permanent rule in the state code.[12][13]
Senate Bill 165 was introduced during 2011 state legislative session on February 25, 2011. The measure bans collecting petition signatures online, instead mandating that signatures be obtained directly from registered voters. The Utah State Senate voted on the proposal on March 8, 2011 with a vote of 26-1, sending it to the House for consideration. On March 9, 2011, the Utah House of Representatives approved the proposal with a vote of 52-23, sending the bill to Governor of Utah Gary Herbert, where it will be enacted after he signs the law. This is where the efforts to repeal the law via veto referendum began to take place.[14][15][14]


  • In a ruling on August 31, 2012, 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy stated that the measure should not be placed on the November 2012 ballot. Skanchy stated about the laws the referendum tried to overturn, "The laws do not limit the ability of citizens to raise issues and initiate political discussions."[17]

See also


  1. Salt Lake Tribune, "Group files referendum petition to kill records law," March 10, 2011
  2. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Lieutenant governor rejects online petition signatures," February 10, 2010
  3. Deseret News, "Utah Legislature: Initiative backers to fight exclusion of electronic signatures," February 10, 2010
  4. Associated Press, "Utah high court considers online signatures case," June 6, 2010
  5. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Court to include initiatives in review of e-signatures," June 4, 2010
  6. Deseret News, "Utah Supreme Court to hear fight over electronic signatures," May 24, 2010
  7. Davis County Clipper, "Ruling in ACLU case could aid UEG," May 27, 2010
  8. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah Supreme Court hears ballot access case," June 2, 2010
  9. Fox 13 News, "Utah Supreme Court examines issue of e-signatures on ballot initiatives," June 2, 2010
  10. Associated Press, "Utah Supreme Court rules in favor of e-signatures," June 22, 2010
  11. KCPW, "No Decision Yet on E-Signatures for Ballot Initiatives," June 24, 2010
  12. Deseret News, "Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell says e-signatures allowed for ballot initiatives and referendums," July 8, 2010
  13. KCSG News, "Interim Rule on Electronic Signatures Established," July 8, 2010
  14. 14.0 14.1 Utah Legislature, "Bill Status-Senate Bill 165," accessed March 11, 2011
  15. The Republic, "Lawmakers pass ban on electronic signatures for ballot initiatives and candidates," March 9, 2011
  16. The Republic, "Lt. Gov. Greg Bell sued by ACLU of Utah for prohibiting electronic signatures on petitions," March 25, 2011
  17. Salt Lake Tribune, "Judge rules against foes of Utah’s initiative law," August 31, 2012