Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pete Peterson, Republican candidate for CA Sec. of State, supports “exploring e-signatures in ballot initiatives”

Pete Peterson is the Executive Director of the Davenport Institute at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy in Malibu, California, and is currently the only declared Republican candidate for Secretary of State of California in 2014.

Asked about his views on using e-signatures on official initiative and related petitions in California, his Facebook account, Pete Peterson for Secretary of State, replied:

“Please see my ‘Point #4’ of my ‘5-Point Plan’ to transform the SoS office. There I note my support for not only exploring e-signatures in ballot initiatives, but actually looking at an ‘e-Petition’ process that could work like an ‘indirect initiative’. I'd have to learn more about security issues, and the power the SoS has to enact this, but I also see the SoS as a bully pulpit for greater civic engagement...including more widespread use of secure technology.”

It’s not clear whether Mr. Peterson’s promise in his 5 Point Plan to “Propose an ‘e-Petition” system with electronic signature gathering that will generate online involvement in the legislative process” means he supports the introduction and passage of legislation in Sacramento during the 2014 legislative session that would legalize online signature-gathering on official initiative, referendum, recall, and in lieu petitions.

Perhaps a follow-up question to his Facebook page is in order.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

John Matsusaka, President of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at USC, endorses e-signatures for official initiative petitions

 John G. Matsusaka is the Charles F. Sexton Chair in American Enterprise in the Marshall School of Business, Gould School of Law, and Department of Political Science at the University of Southern California, and President of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at USC.

Asked for a comment about the campaign by the Coalition for an E-Initiative to allow eligible Californians to sign official initiative and related petitions online, he today issued this statement to Etopia News:

"The right of the people to petition the government goes back to the founding of the Republic and the right of the people to propose new laws by initiative goes back more than a century in California and other states. In the 21st Century, when a vast amount of communication and business takes place online, it only makes sense to take advantage of contemporary technology to allow citizens to exercise their petition rights electronically."

The Coaltion for an E-Initiative (CFEI), launched as a Facebook page on February 15, 2013, is working to legalize online signature-gathering, also known as e-signatures or “Smart Initiatives,” in California and half-a-dozen other western states (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington State) that already allow their citizens to register online to vote and have the initiative process but do not yet allow online signature gathering on official initiative and related petitions.

The CFEI is the brainchild of Marc Strassman, partner in the private equity firm Green Asset Finance, and a long-time champion of digital democracy.

He is, for example, the author of the turn-of-the-century non-fiction volume “Etopian Elections:  Internet Voting, Smart Initiatives, and the Future of (Electronic) Democracy, available online at:

You can see and hear him talking about Smart Initiatives in 1999 at IBM’s Institute for Electronic Government, at:

You can hear his 2002 cyber-democracy plan for the never-realized “Valley City” (Los Angeles secession campaign) at:

You can catch his virtual address to the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy at:

For a video panel discussion he produced and hosted about “"Electoral Evolution Beyond Online Voter Registration" with election officials from Arizona, Utah, and Washington State, recorded on October 9, 2012, on Etopia News, using Google+ Hangouts On Air, go to:

He urges all those who support a citizen’s right to use the Internet to sign official initiative and related petitions online to visit the Coalition for an E-Initiative Facebook page at:

“like” the page and leave your own comments on the issue of e-signatures on official initiative petitions.

(FULL  DISCLOSURE:  This article was written by Marc Strassman, reporter at, and publisher of, Etopia News.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Joe Mathews supports “participatory, deliberative processes” as a source of worthy ideas for initiatives, regardless of signature method

Declaring that “changing the method of signatures is a distraction,” Connecting California columnist and Zocalo Public Square editor Joe Mathews offered a thoughtful riposte to an inquiry regarding the refusal of the ACLU of California to support the campaign of the Coalition for an E-Initiative ( to win California voters the right to sign official initiative petitions online on the grounds that online signature-gathering “could be used to more easily qualify initiatives that seek to limit fundamental rights.”

Bringing a bit of realism to the discussion, the journalist tells Etopia News:

“I think you and the ACLU are both wrong. There's no real reason to worry that e-signature gathering would make it easier to qualify measures for the ballot, in and of itself. It still will remain very difficult, and costly, to get the hundreds of thousands of signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. Initiative sponsors will have to spend millions to get the attention of signers and to employ people to approach people to sign on-line (probably on iPads and tablets) that are carried around. Changing the method of signatures is a distraction. We need less costly, alternative paths to the ballot that allow initiatives to qualify because the ideas in the initiatives are found to be worthy after participatory, deliberative processes.”