The Utah Supreme Court is considering the issue of e-signatures and whether they should be used in ballot initiatives. The court is also considering the arguments of Farley Anderson, an independent candidate for Utah governor, who was booted from the ballot on the issue of e-signatures. Anderson and the American Civic Liberties Union ( ACLU) are arguing e-signatures are the same as signing a paper ballot. Another group, Utahns for Ethical Government, has also joined the fight to bring e-signatures on the ballot for all candidates.

A pair of initiatives intended to create independent ethics and redistricting commissions won’t appear on the ballot this fall. The lieutenant governor’s office said Tuesday that neither initiative gathered the required number of signatures to be placed before voters.

Read the story from ABC 4

Utah’s highest court will hear arguments tomorrow to decide if signatures collected over the internet count on Utah petitions. The effort to allow signatures is being backed by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah will represent aspiring candidate Farley Anderson as he takes his electronic-signature battle to the state Supreme Court on June 2. In March, Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell rejected Anderson as an independent candidate for governor because a small portion of his required 1,000 signatures were gathered online.

Read the story from The Salt Lake Tribune

Of the 45 states whose legislatures hold sessions in 2010, 27 of them have adjourned for the year, and 5 more will wrap up before the end of the month. Of the more than 80 bills dealing with the initiative and referendum process in various states, 51 of them would have reduced citizens’ initiative rights. Thanks to the work of activists in our coalitions, only 3 bills reducing citizen’s rights have passed and become law.

One of Utah’s largest papers, the Deseret News, has editorialized against the state’s highly restrictive distribution requirement. The paper correctly points out that such requirements severely hamper grassroots petition efforts:

State lawmakers make no bones about it, they don’t like citizen initiatives. They contend that the legislative process better serves the electorate because important proposals undergo the legislative hearing process, where members of the public can express their support or concerns for various proposals. Then, the legislation must pass both houses and be signed into law by the governor, who also has the option of a veto.

Read they story from Deseret News

A federal judge ordered Utah county clerks to keep confidential the names signed electronically on petitions for a “Government Ethics Reform” initiative. Utahns for Ethical Government sued all the county clerks in Utah, claiming it needs the electronic signatures to qualify its initiative for the ballot, but many signers do not want their names made public.      Utahns for Ethical Government needs 95,000 signatures to qualify its initiative for the November ballot. It claims to have gathered 77,000 signatures in ink and at least 18,000 “e-signatures.”

Federal Judge Dale Kimball has issued a temporary restraining order barring the Lt. Governor and the clerks of all of the state’s 29 counties from making public the names of voters who signed the Utah Ethics Commission Initiative petition. A hearing has been set for April 28th to determine if the release of voter’s information violates their right to anonymous political speech.

You can read the order here.

The fate of a citizen petition drive to land its expansive ethics-reform initiative on November’s ballot is still unclear, though Thursday was the deadline for the 95,000 valid voter signatures to be turned into county clerks across the state. Leaders of the effort could not say whether they met the threshold or not, only that it was “close.” But a second petition drive fell short — this one to create an independent commission to help in redrawing voting boundaries in the once-a-decade task of redistricting.

The latest development in Utah’s rapidly changing initiative rights, Utahans for Ethical Government has filed suit in U.S. District Court asking the court to block the public release of names of voters who signed their petition. The lawsuit, similar to Doe’s argument in the pending Doe v.

Over the past few weeks we have been telling you about two Utah bills aimed at weakening the initiative petitioning rights of Utahans, and unfortunately Gov. Gary Herbert has decided to put his rubber stamp on both bills.

Utahns for Ethical Government and the national nonpartisan group Citizens in Charge joined together on Utah’s capitol steps Monday to condemn Utah’s legislature and governor for seriously constraining Utah citizen’s constitutional right to petition the government. By signing SB275, Governor Gary Herbert gave every registered voter in Utah the ability to remove their signature from a petition more easily. He also gave special interest groups an extra month to convince you to do so.

Utah Press Conference Recap

Tue, Mar 30 2010 by Staff

Yesterday, Citizens in Charge President Paul Jacob spoke at a joint press conference in Salt Lake City, Utah with Utahns for Ethical Government calling on Utah Governor Gary Herbert to veto a bill on his desk that will restrict citizen rights in the state. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Ethics initiative organizers on Monday accused Gov. Gary Herbert of seeking to “stymie citizen participation” after he signed a bill that will make it easier to remove petition signatures. Herbert signed the controversial bill Saturday, despite a plea from initiative supporters calling on him to veto the legislation. Citizen-initiative advocates predict the law will result in campaigns to harass petition-signers, as opponents try to persuade them to remove their signatures.