While S.B. 55, which would have made it easier for Utah’s electoral authorities to refuse acceptance of electronic signatures for electoral purposes such as initiative or referendum signing, or ballot access, continues to languish in the Senate Rules Committee, another bill, S.B. 165, which outright prohibits the use of e-signatures for these purposes, has easily passed in the Utah State Senate on a 52 to 23 vote.
According to Todd Taylor, Executive Director of the Utah Democratic Party, “The State House just passed SB165 outlawing e-signatures for petitions by a super-majority vote that gives it an immediate effective date and does not allow it to be the subject of a referendum.”
Paul Neuenschwander, Chief of Staff Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell, welcomed the result, telling Etopia News:
“As the Executive Branch, we of course don't make the laws, we administer them. In this case, the legislature, by a clear margin, determined that electronic signatures need further work before being allowed in the election process. To my knowledge, no other state has accepted electronic signatures for this process and we believe it will be a slow, deliberative progression before they will be widely accepted.”
Democrat Taylor was not as supportive. In a statement, he said:
“Over the years Utah’s legislators have jealously guarded what they see as their sole prerogative to make policy. They strike out at judges, tame the governor, punish city and county leaders who don’t tow the line, and now once again they strike out at the constitutional right of citizens to petition their government.
“The Utah State House vote today on SB165 to eliminate electronic signatures from the political process of petitioning our government was a dramatic farce while they held the vote open to get the super-majority they needed to keep the bill from being the subject of a referendum and to make sure it went into effect immediately. There is little doubt that Governor Herbert will sign this bill. Electronic signatures have been on his chopping block since before his ascendancy to the high office. He opposed them vigorously when he was the head of the State Election Department. He believes the law that is good enough for the transaction of billions of dollars is not good enough for citizens to obtain a vote on issues of importance to them.
“It is a sad day when a government tries to silence its own citizens. Today is a sad day for direct democracy in Utah.”