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Monday, May 17, 2010

Santa Clara County Allows Voter Registration Via Electronic Signatures

Posted By on Mon, May 17, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Santa Clara County has taken a historic step by allowing residents to register to vote electronically, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

The new procedure allows people to register using touch-screen devices such as iPhones and iPads, and is the result of a proposal by the Silicon Valley firm Verafirma, which created the technology that will be used. The plan has the support of the county registrar and board of supervisors, according to the Merc.

This victory for Verafirma comes on the heels of a defeat last month, when San Mateo Superior Court Judge George Miram ruled that a ballot initiative submitted with electronic signatures did not conform to state election laws. (In a double whammy of Californian forward-thinking, the electro-initiative would have legalized marijuana. Don't worry, it qualified for the ballot anyway.) Verafirma co-founder Jude Barry said today that the company plans to appeal the decision, and that Santa Clara County's more favorable view of the technology is an indicator of things to come.

"This is the future of voter registration," Barry said, noting that the registration software is "a similar technology" to that designed for initiative signature-gathering.

Advocates of electronic signatures for ballot initiatives say the technology would democratize an initiative process often dominated by big-money interests, such as corporations and labor unions, that can pay big bucks to send signature-gatherers door-to-door or into the streets. Once a sufficient number of signatures are collected -- about 430,000 for a statute and 690,000 for a constitutional amendment -- the initiative is printed on the state ballot and goes up for a popular vote.

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