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Movement to Gather Voter Signatures on iPhones Gains Steam

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
It takes hundreds of thousands of signatures to place a statewide initiative on the ballot. And gathering all those signatures doesn’t come cheap. Kim Alexander with the California Voter Foundation says an iPhone signature could “revolutionize” the initiative process.
Alexander: “Even the most popular initiatives usually have to turn to paid signature gatherers and raise at least a million dollars to qualify. So this technology does offer an opportunity to see truly grassroots efforts to qualify initiatives that maybe wouldn’t need to raise so much money.”
In fact, when backers of a measure to legalize and tax marijuana turned in their petitions last Friday, they included exactly one electronic signature – in San Mateo County. The campaign for another initiative currently hunting for signatures is asking voters to sign up electronically, too.
But with that new technology come major security concerns. For example, how do you prevent signatures from being duplicated and used for other measures – or for commercial gain? And Sacramento County Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine says nothing in the California Elections Code supports using electronic signatures.
LaVine: “It says, personally affix your signature. Okay, now we have to verify that signature. And my concern is, where is the original signature? It’s not the paper copy that I’m gonna print out – or if I did print out. How do I verify that it’s been personally affixed?”
And San Mateo County’s elections office says that’s why it will reject the one signature it received.

The lawyer representing one of the initiatives that wants to gather signatures electronically declined an interview request. But he does believe it’s legal under the state’s elections code. In a white paper posted online, Sacramento attorney Steven Churchwell says other laws have adapted to changing technologies – and this one can, too.

LaVine says the final say will almost certainly belong to the courts.
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