Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge, “a 501(c)(4) citizen-powered advocacy organization that serves as a partner to Citizens in Charge Foundation in protecting and expanding the initiative and referendum process. The organization works with activists, legislators, media, opinion leaders and voters to protect the initiative and referendum process where it exists in 24 states and to expand the process to the 26 states where voters currently lack that right.”
Following up its initial coverage of Legislative Bill 566, a proposed law now pending in the unicameral Nebraska Legislature that would allow Nebraska voters to sign initiative, recall, and referendum petitions electronically online, Etopia News contacted Mr. Jacob to get his views on this measure. Here’s what he had to say:
“Millions of Americans electronically sign important financial documents every day at their bank and virtually every place they shop. It’s high time that state governments allow this technology to be used by citizens wanting to sign petitions for ballot measures. Citizens in Charge supports LB 566 and applauds Nebraska Senator Schumacher for introducing his e-signature legislation to bring the petition process into the 21st century and allow more people to participate in their government. While the fees the bill would impose on the sponsors of initiative and referendum petitions in order to allow their use of electronic signatures are higher than we believe necessary, use of the online electronic signature-gathering system would be completely voluntary and would no doubt create a far less expensive method of petitioning. Nebraska can take the national lead in putting technology to work to improve the democratic process by passing this legislation.
“Senator Schumacher’s bill is especially important because Nebraska is the most difficult state in the country for citizens to petition to place an initiative on the ballot. Not only is the state’s signature requirement the highest in the nation, but in 2008 the legislature passed severe restrictions on who can circulate petitions and how they can be paid. There are currently two lawsuits in federal court, one filed by Citizens in Charge, challenging the state’s unconstitutional and draconian petition rules. LB 566 is a pond of cool water in a scorching desert.”
Hearings on the bill are expected “late in February,” according to an informed source in the Nebraska state capital, Lincoln.