At around 5:00 pm, PDT, on Monday, August 2nd, at the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, as part of the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, your correspondent will deliver a “virtual presentation” entitled “Technology and Direct Democracy: Obstacles and Opportunities.” The presentation will be virtual because it will have been recorded in Los Angeles as a video file and then played to the assembled conventioneers present in the room.
Contained in that presentation is a modest proposal. Here’s the background for it:
“Eight states now allow eligible citizens to register to vote online, by accessing DMV records and applying the digitized versions of signatures on file with them to voting registration sign-up. California has adopted such a program, pending the creation of a HAVA-compliant interactive statewide voter database.”
Here’s the proposal itself:
“One new opportunity that this presents is to allow citizens to use their DMV-stored signatures to digitally sign initiative and other official petitions, just as they are now allowed to use them to register to vote.”
This proposal hasn’t even been made public yet, but it nevertheless seems to be indicative of a trend.
Washington State allows online voter registration using DMV records. This reporter called the Washington State Secretary of State’s office and spoke to Carolyn Berger, Assistant to the Director of Elections, Nick Handy; and to Katie Blinn, Assistant Director of Elections, and asked them about the possibility of extending the right to register to vote online using DMV-acquired signatures to a right to sign initiative and other official petitions in the same way.
Both of them said that that wasn’t allowed under Washington State law. Ms. Blinn provided a link to the specific administrative rule that precludes it, saying, very clearly, that: "No initiative, referendum, or recall petition signatures may be filed electronically."
But they also volunteered the information that their office had already received some inquiries from Washington State residents who were calling to find out exactly the same thing that this reporter was calling about: whether, now that they could register to vote online, could they also sign initiative petitions online?
As these two election officials told Etopia News, that’s not possible now under Washington State law. But it looks like something’s in the air.