We’re excited to hear that the use of e-Signatures continue to be upheld by the Courts and are getting closer to the Tipping Point – adoption is on the Rise!. This month we continue to ‘heighten the awareness’ and Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the passage of the e-Sign Act. Just imagine your own lifestyle and /or current business process-imagine what would it be liked if you never had to use a fax machine, a scanner, expensive couriers or just ’pen on paper’ – Gone! Here is Ed Silverstein’s unedited version…
June 22, 2010
By Ed Silverstein
A new ruling by the Utah Supreme Court – that state election officials must accept online petition signatures to qualify candidates for the ballot – is seen as growing evidence of the acceptance of online signatures on legal or governmental documents.
Utah law “does not require a signor to physically handle a piece of paper and sign her name with a pen; an electronic signature is sufficient to satisfy the Election Code,” the justices wrote in their 15-page opinion released this week.
The justices ruled in favor of Farley Anderson, an independent candidate for governor of Utah. On March 18, 2010, Anderson presented to Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell a nominating petition signed by over 1,000 Utah voters, as is required by the Election Law for independent candidates wishing to run for statewide office.
The lieutenant governor rejected Anderson’s petition because a small portion of the signatures were “e-signatures.” The lieutenant governor argued that those were not “signatures” under Utah state law.
Without those e-signatures, Anderson’s nomination fell short of the mandatory 1,000 signatures, according to the state Supreme Court’s ruling.
The justices further ruled that the state’s lieutenant governor “exceeded the bounds of discretion granted to him as the state’s chief election officer when he excised the electronic signatures attached to Anderson’s certificate of nomination.”
The state’s highest court instructed the lieutenant governor to recount the signatures submitted by Anderson to determine if he has satisfied the requirements of state election law on whether he qualifies for the ballot.
The court’s opinion, the first of its kind nationwide, has the potential to increase significantly the ability of independent candidates to access the general election ballot, and thus to increase the opportunity for minority viewpoints to be heard and considered in election years, said the Utah Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“This case raises substantial issues of statutory and constitutional law that affect not just every Utahan, but also every voter nationwide,” said ACLU of Utah Legal Director Darcy M. Goddard. “We are pleased that the Court understood and upheld the validity of e-signatures under both statutory and common law. Mr. Anderson’s case is an important step towards increasing participatory democracy in this country through the use of new technology.”
“Since the earliest days of the common law, a ‘signature’ was any mark that the signing individual intended to be his ‘signature,’” said ACLU cooperating attorney Brent V. Manning. “That was true whether the mark was on paper, on wood, on a wall, or on a cow.”
According to Manning, an e-signature is equally valid so long as the signer intends it to be his signature. “Utah’s legislature and courts already recognized the legitimacy of e-signatures in a variety of contexts,” said Manning. “We are gratified that the Supreme Court rejected the lieutenant governor’s attempt effectively to re-write existing law by seeking to impose additional and unconstitutional requirements for independent candidates to access the ballot.”
Bell was a lawyer before assuming the post of lieutenant governor.
In another legal matter, the issue of cloud computing is being considered by some state officials. For instance, the North Carolina State Bar has issued a preliminary opinion that it is ethical for attorneys to use Software-as-a-Service products if “reasonable care” is taken to minimize risks to the “confidentiality and to the security of client information and client files.”
Ed Silverstein is a contributing editor for TMCnet’s InfoTech Spotlight. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Juliana Kenny