Utah citizen activists cannot enter the 21st Century.
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff issued an opinion Tuesday night that says the current initiative law does not permit the gathering of online signatures. The opinion was requested by Lt. Gov. Greg Bell after multiple initiatives, including the ethics and anti-gerrymandering petitions, started gathering signatures through a certified website.
When the initiatives launched their online efforts, they argued that electronic signatures were already used for many government functions, including secure transactions like filing taxes. And although the current initiative law was written with paper petitions in mind, it did not expressly forbid the e-signatures.
Shurtleff, however, says that because the law did not "contemplate" electronic signatures, they are not valid. In legalese: "electronic signatures that are gathered in connection with the pending initiatives do not comply with current statutory provisions and should not be allowed or counted toward satisfying the signature requirements."
UPDATE, 6:00 p.m.: Utahns for Ethical Governments released a statement saying that they will challenge the AG ruling. "Although we are not surprised at today's ruling by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, we are disappointed," said Kim Burningham, chair of UEG's executive committee. "It's just another in a string of obstacles our elected representatives have erected to prevent themselves from being held accountable to the people of Utah. We will fight it."
They also plan to continue to seek electronic signatures while they fight it out.