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Published July 27, 2011 4:29 pm

Resistance to e-signatures is bogus
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The person in charge of running elections in Utah told members of the Legislature the other day that a system to allow electronic signatures on petitions for candidates or ballot initiatives might be desirable, but could take years to create.

Or maybe it would take 0.12 seconds. That's how long it took the Google online search engine to respond to a query for "online voter registration in Utah."

The fact is, as state elections director Mark Thomas basically admitted last week, Utah already has a way of allowing its citizens to perform a key function of representative democracy while sitting at their computers. The recently upgraded site — elections.utah.gov — already allows eligible residents to register to vote electronically.

The need for a paper trail containing a voter's actual signature is satisfied by a clever process in which the prospective voter can import his or her John or Jane Hancock from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles. That's where almost everyone who meets the state's age and residency requirements for voting already has a signed drivers license application on file.

The existence of this system seems conclusive proof that the objections the state has previously raised to the use of electronic signatures on petitions are bogus.

A more logical explanation is that the powers that be in Utah are not reluctant to allow us to register to vote online because, no matter how easy that process is, the risk of people actually voting in large numbers is not great enough to be a threat to entrenched interests.

Getting more than a third of the state's voters to show up at the polls, at least in years where there isn't a president being elected, has been more than we can manage.

And the state's goofy system for nominating candidates, which requires a sort of multi-level marketing scheme of caucuses and conventions, also weeds out anything resembling democracy in the way we choose our leaders.

But allowing more people to shape the direction of government by allowing e-signatures on petitions for referendums, such as the one that would have imposed strict ethics reforms on members of the Legislature, is clearly a little more democratic than our masters wish to allow.

This is particularly maddening because, in so many other ways, the state of Utah has led the way in posting the functions of government online. Legislative sessions are video live-streamed and applications of all sorts are taken online

E-signatures should be allowed in Utah. The process is not that difficult. The state's own websites prove it.




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