Utah's high court says "yes" to e-signatures

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June 22, 2010

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah: Electronic petition signatures are valid in the state of Utah. In a ruling today the Utah Supreme Court unanimously concluded that electronic signatures are just as valid as handwritten signatures and must be accepted by state election officials.[1]

In 2000 the Electronic Transaction Act was enacted by lawmakers to allow electronic signatures to be used in government services. However, the act does not identify if the same policy applies to candidate and initiative petitions.[2] State officials argued that the state's election code mandates that strict guidelines to be followed for paper signature forms and does not address electronic signatures. However, following the June 22 ruling, state officials must now accept e-signatures.[3]

The initial lawsuit was filed in early April 2010 by gubernatorial candidate Farley Anderson after electronic petition signatures that were rejected by the Lieutenant Governor of Utah. Those signatures must now be recounted and if 1,000 signatures are found to be valid Anderson's name must be placed on the November ballot.[3]

Of the court's decision, the lieutenant governor said, "This is a brave new world where no one has gone before." Lt. Gov. Greg Bell said on Tuesday that he never rejected the idea of e-signatures but instead that his interpretation of state law differed from the court's.[4]

Supporters of the proposed Utah Ethics Commission Initiative also plan to submit e-signatures for the 2012 ballot, however, initiatives were not explicitly discussed in the high court ruling.[4]

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