Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Update on the State-by-State Status of DOIPSS (DMV-assisted, online initiative petition signing systems)

As previously reported by Etopia News, eight U.S. states now allow their resident citizens to register to vote, or to change their official party affiliation, online. They do this using DMV databases that contain digital versions of handwritten signatures that can serve as valid, officially-recognized substitutes for a new handwritten signature on a voter registration card.

Some Washington State residents have contacted that state’s Secretary of State’s office, asking if they might be able to use a similar system to sign official initiative petitions online.

On July 22nd, Don Hamilton, Director of Communications in the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, called using a similar, DMV-assisted, online initiative petition signing system (DOIPSS) “an interesting idea, worthy of study.” Geoff Sugerman, media spokesperson in the Oregon Speaker’s office, said that the legislature there would soon be considering an overhaul of initiative rules, and that such an idea might be discussed there in the context of providing “a safe and secure system” for the collection of signatures on official petitions. In addition to accepting online voter registrations, Oregon now has a vote-by-mail only election system.

But three other states with DMV-assisted voter registration systems have told Etopia News that they have not extended, and will not be extending, these systems to allow for the online signing of official petitions.

Abbie Hodgson, Media Contact in the office of Kansas’ Secretary of State’s office, asked if the state allows registered voters to sign initiative petitions online using a system similar to the one they now use to allow online voter registration, said, “No, we do not. Petitions need to be signed in person.”

Arizona’s Matt Benson, Communications Director, in their Secretary of State’s office said, “You can’t sign initiative petitions online.”

Jacques Berry, Press Secretary for Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne explained that his state does not have an initiative process, but required handwritten signatures on recall petitions and for “in lieu” signatures used by candidates in place of filing fees. Asked if his office was considering expanding their online voter registration system to allow the use of a similar system for signing such documents, he said “We’re not planning to ask the legislature to do that.”

A spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, Richard Coolidge, was less definitive in his comments about that state’s lack of a DOIPSS (DMV-assisted, online initiative petition signing system), saying, “I haven’t heard that discussed yet….I haven’t given much thought to it.” He did say that, after three months in place, Colorado’s system for online voter registration had been used by over 10,000 people.

Calls to the remaining states that provide for online voter registration (Indiana and Utah) had not been returned by close-of-business Friday, July 23rd.

DOIPSS may not be sweeping the country, but several more press spokespersons in states with online voter registration, but not online petition signing, now know that such a concept exists, because someone asked them about it.