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Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell says e-signatures allowed for ballot initiatives and referendums

Published: Thursday, July 8 2010 10:45 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Three initiative-petition efforts now circulating in Utah could receive an added boost from signatures that can be collected electronically.

The Office of the Lieutenant Governor issued an "interim" rule — allowed in emergency situations — Thursday that allows for the collection of electronic signatures to qualify a statewide initiative or referendum for the ballot.

The recent decision by the Utah Supreme Court in the Anderson v. Bell case stated that electronic signatures must be accepted for certifying an unaffiliated candidate for a statewide ballot and pointed out that the state didn't have a rule for dealing with referendums and initiatives.

The decision prompted Lt. Gov. Greg Bell's office to create the rule, which will be valid for 120 days.

The language is available for download at www.elections.utah.gov/R623-4.pdf.

The point of the rule is to allow the signatures and maintain accountability and integrity in the referendum and initiative processes.

Mark Thomas, office administrator in Bell's office, said the rule is not retroactive. However, he said the lieutenant governor's office will work with petition sponsors through the process and the signature-gathering systems they plan to use.

The three initiatives currently underway are one that is anti-bribery, one that is anti-corruption and the Utahns for Ethical Government's initiative to establish an independent ethics commission and a strict code of ethical conduct for the Utah Legislature.

Kim Burningham, UEG chairman, said Thursday evening that he hadn't seen the rules yet, but he commended the lieutenant governor's office for making them.

"I'm delighted that we have them," he said, adding that rules should have been in place long ago.

Thomas said the lieutenant governor's office will accept public comment for 30 days to determine if a public hearing is necessary. Then, Bell's office plans to work with the Utah Legislature to establish the rule into the Utah Code.

e-mail: jdougherty@desnews.com

twitter: dnewspolitics

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