Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, along with cooperating attorneys David C. Reymann and Chad R. Derum, filed an amicus curiae brief to the Utah Supreme Court in the case of Utahns for Ethical Government v. Clerks for All Counties in the State of Utah. In its brief, the ACLU of Utah argued that a ban on counting electronic signatures in the initiative process violates the Utah Constitution.
“We are heartened by the Utah Supreme Court’s willingness to hear from the ACLU of Utah on this critical issue,” said John Mejia, Legal Director of the ACLU of Utah. “A ban on electronic signatures in the initiative process is not just a burden for some out-of-state Utahns, but a complete exclusion from participation. “
In this case, Utahns for Ethical Government (“UEG”) has worked to place an initiative on the ballot of this year’s general election. As part of those efforts, various disputes arose between UEG and election officials, and UEG brought suit in Utah state district court to resolve them. As part of that suit, UEG asked the district court to rule that any electronic signatures UEG collected in support of placing the initiative on the ballot must be counted. On June 6, 2012, the district court denied UEG’s motion, appearing to reason that electronic signatures could never comply with Utah’s statutory requirements for gathering, submitting, processing, and counting signatures for initiative petitions.
The ACLU of Utah intends to argue as a “friend of the court” that precluding electronic signatures, whether expressly or impliedly, violates the Utah Constitution, which expressly grants the right for citizen to file initiatives and referenda.
“Because Utah has specifically guaranteed its citizens the right to participatory democracy through initiatives and referenda, any law making participation more difficult is suspect,” said John Mejia, Legal Director of the ACLU of Utah. “We intend to argue to the Utah Supreme Court that disallowing electronic signatures gathered to support initiatives will exclude thousands of Utahns who happen to be out of the state—such as students, missionaries, and members of the military—from participating. Such a massive exclusion from the ability to exercise a fundamental right does not comport with the Utah constitution.”
Read more about this case including documents filed in court >>