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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Don't shoot the messenger (electronically, or otherwise)!

By Scott Jenkins
Utah State Senator, representing District 20, and
Senate Majority Leader

Goodness, don't blame Greg Bell. He's obeying the law.

Online signatures might be a great idea. They might not. That discussion needs to happen.

One thing is clear: current law would need to be modified. Right now the law requires paper and, more importantly, a witness to the signature. 20A-7-203, for example, asks for a direct personal verification of each signature. The person submitting each initiative packet certifies to the LG that they are a Utah resident, over 18 years old and that
"All the names that appear in this packet were signed by persons who professed to be the persons whose names appear in it, and each of them signed his name on it in my presence."
They also state that they believe the signer has entered the info correctly and is registered to vote (or will be by the initiative submission deadline). I don't know how you provide that human verification with an on-line petition. Clearly, the language would have to be modified or new structures put in place.

The subject is slated for study this year. Item 101 in the Master Study Resolution (SJR 15) directs the legislature to analyze the "Use of Electronic Signatures for Petitions." Specifically:
"To study whether electronic signatures should be used for initiative and referendum petitions (both statewide and local), political party petitions, and certificate of nomination petitions."
No other state allows electronic signatures on initiative petitions. Allowing it would be breaking new ground for the nation. If we go this direction, it's worth thinking it through and doing it right.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Ethan Millard said...

The discussion has already taken place. We just need to catch up with technology.

The only reason this didn't happen this year is because

1. The Legislature is rightly afraid of the initiatives up to bat and didn't want to give them any help

2. There is an attitude at the Legislature right now that common citizens have no right to legislate on their own.

Groups of citizens who place ideas directly before the voting public are a perversion of our system...

Amazingly, were the same citizens to hire lobbyists bearing gift cards, meals, and campaign donations...

They would be embraced?

Senator Jenkins, don't try to defend it. Recognize it and change it.

4/14/2010 10:23 AM  
Blogger The Senate Site said...

That's fair. Mostly.*

The "recognizing and changing" will probably happen. But it's still in process. Until it happens and new policies are thought through and the law is changed, current rules still apply. So, Senator Jenkins was saying, lay off Greg Bell - he administers the law, he doesn't unilaterally remodel them to fit his idea of how things should be. That's the difference between a speedy dictatorship and a carefully evolving democratic republic.

* I'll argue with you later about your generalizations about citizens and lobbyists. Not sure I'll win, but I'll definitely argue.

RC

4/14/2010 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Ethan Millard said...

The Legislature is very hostile to citizen led ballot measures. The Legislature has even worked to undermine out right to change our own laws in the state where we live and pay taxes.

The Legislature has restricted ballot measures on their own accord. Restrictions on gifts from lobbyists have come at the barrel of a gun (threat from UEG)

I think years of experience has shown us that as an institution, the Legislature views the process of exchanging goods with lobbyists and their clients a more legitimate way to legislate than by citizens at the ballot box.

I think I should point out here that there are many Legislators I admire. Overall, I think they do a good job.

But our state is too vulnerable to the unscrupulous who abuse our trusting nature.

When it happens, whether it be the Sandy stadium legislation or Aaron Tilton's embarrassing conflict of interest problems, or the slow burn abuse at the hands of fake "personal friendships" between legislators and lobbyists,

We shrug our shoulders and regret it happened.

But adjustments that can protect the process are rarely made.

4/14/2010 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Joey Ramone said...

Hey UEG! Stop trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.

4/14/2010 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ethics reform is needed. But it is also needed with the media. People like Millard need to reveal what lawmakers they help by using them as secret sources, and what influence their advertisers have over their opinions. The fourth estate is unaccountable and needs reform.

4/14/2010 8:13 PM  

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