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Utah's high court to hear electronic signature case

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May 25, 2010

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah: Next week the Utah Supreme Court will hear arguments on electronic petition signature validity. A 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.[1]

The case, although primarily regarding the candidate petition, also affects signatures submitted by proponents of a citizen initiative - Utah Ethics Commission Initiative. Proponents of the initiative failed to qualify for the 2010 ballot but plan to file signatures, including electronic signatures, for the 2012 ballot. According to UEG's attorney Alan Smith, he expects the group to file a friend of the court brief in the case. If the high court approves the validity of online signatures then the citizen initiative may qualify for the 2012 statewide ballot with the inclusion of the electronic signatures.[1]

The American Civil Liberties Union announced in late May 2010 that it will be representing Anderson in the supreme court case. Attorney Brent Manning, who is arguing on behalf of the ACLU, said, "A signature is any mark that the signing party intends to be their signature." However, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell argues that Utah's petition process is solely paper-based.[2][3]

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] The state's election code mandates that strict guidelines to be followed for paper signature forms and does not address electronic signatures.

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