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E-Signatures Not Allowed on Petitions

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    NEWSLETTERS

    "The Legislature did not anticipate the use of electronic signatures when it drafted the statute..."

    A Redwood Shores man's attempt to sign a ballot initiative petition with an electronic signature has been turned aside by a state appeals court.

    A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal ruled in San Francisco Thursday that the state elections code doesn't allow electronic signatures on petitions.

    The panel said it would be up to the Legislature to decide on whether to change the law.

    Justice Sandra Margulies wrote, "The Legislature did not anticipate the use of electronic signatures when it drafted the statute and has since taken no action that can be construed as approving them for this purpose.

    "The Legislature...is the proper body to determine whether and how to incorporate this technology, with its new risks and equal promise, into the process of initiative endorsement," the court said.

    The court ruled in the case of Michael Ni, who sought to submit an electronic signature to the San Mateo County elections office on last year's Proposition 19, a marijuana legalization initiative.

    Ni signed a copy of the petition by hand on the touchscreen of his iPhone, using software developed by Verafirma, a Silicon Valley startup, and submitted it to the elections office in a thumb drive memory device.

    He sued the county in San Mateo County Superior Court after Chief Elections Officer Warren Slocum rejected the electronic signature, and then appealed after Superior Court Judge George Miram upheld Slocum's action.

    Proposition 19 got onto the state ballot without Ni's signature and then was defeated by voters on Nov. 2, 2010.

    But the Court of Appeal said it went ahead with deciding the case because the issue was a matter of public interest that was likely to recur.

    Bay City News contributed to this report.