The age of digitial ballot initiative drives remains in the future, if it is to come at all, following a San Mateo County Superior Court judge's ruling this week that petitions circulated and signed over iPhones don't meet the Elections Code's requirement for signature-gathering.
Judge George Miram noted that the Elections Code contains provisions specifying the margins that must be used for the printing of paper versions of the summaries of initiatives that individuals must be shown before signing their names and other technical provisions that would make it impossible to circulate petitions in any way other than in paper form.
"Substantial compliance means actual compliance in respect to the substance essential to every reasonable objective of the statute," Miram wrote.
In other words, the judge's view is that the law must be changed if electronically generated signatures are ever to be allowed. Under the technology promoted by the
Silicon Valley-based Verafirma, initiative sponsors could send out electronic copies of their petition. Individuals could electronically click to affirm having read the initiative, then affix their signatures by tracing their fingers over the iPhone's touchscreen and then electronically transmit their signature back to the initiative sponsor.
Proponents see it as a potentially game-changing development for California's multimillion-dollar initiative industry because once a certain group has amassed a large enough database of voters who share its ideological bent, it could cheaply and quickly tap into that group of voters to qualify an initiative whenever it wanted by simply sending out a mass e-mail blast.
After this week's ruling, it appears that day may be a long way off.