SALT LAKE CITY, UT – The Utah Supreme Court today issued an opinion validating the use of e-signatures in the electoral process. The Court’s opinion, the first of its kind nationwide, has the potential to increase significantly the ability of independent candidates to access the general election ballot, and thus to increase the opportunity for minority viewpoints to be heard and considered in election years.
Utah Supreme Court Validates Use of E-Signatures in Electoral Process
“This case raises substantial issues of statutory and constitutional law that affect not just every Utahn, but also every voter nationwide,” said ACLU of Utah Legal Director Darcy M. Goddard. “We are pleased that the Court understood and upheld the validity of e-signatures under both statutory and common law. Mr. Anderson’s case is an important step towards increasing participatory democracy in this country through the use of new technology.”
On March 18, 2010, Farley Anderson, an independent candidate, presented to the Lieutenant Governor a nominating petition signed by over 1,000 Utah voters, as is required by the Election Law for independent candidates wishing to run for statewide office. The Lieutenant Governor rejected Mr. Anderson’s petition because a small portion of the signatures were “e-signatures.” The Lieutenant Governor argued that those were not “signatures” under Utah State law.
"Since the earliest days of the common law, a 'signature' was any mark that the signing individual intended to be his 'signature,'" said ACLU cooperating attorney Brent V. Manning. "That was true whether the mark was on paper, on wood, on a wall, or on a cow." According to Mr. Manning, an e-signature is equally valid so long as the signer intends it to be his signature. "Utah's legislature and courts already recognized the legitimacy of e-signatures in a variety of contexts," said Manning. “We are gratified that the Supreme Court rejected the Lieutenant Governor's attempt effectively to re-write existing law by seeking to impose additional and unconstitutional requirements for independent candidates to access the ballot."
“The ACLU of Utah remains committed to protecting citizens’ access to the electoral process,” said Goddard. “We will continue in our efforts toward furthering the ACLU’s goal of fully participatory democracy, including ensuring that new technologies are used to increase, rather than impede, citizen access to our elections and to our elected officials. The full realization of every citizen’s First Amendment rights demands no less.”