A SAN Mateo County judge tentatively ruled Thursday that an electronic signature submitted to the county elections office cannot be used to qualify an initiative for the ballot.
In his written decision released prior to a court hearing Thursday, Superior Court Judge George Miram ruled against Michael Ni, whose lawsuit sought to force the county clerk to accept a USB drive containing an "e-signature" that he submitted to qualify a statewide ballot measure for legalizing and taxing marijuana.
Assessor-Clerk-Recorder Warren Slocum rejected Ni's signature, captured by an iPhone and software developed by Verafirma, a startup company Ni co-founded. Slocum said a court must determine whether the signature is legal.
Miram denied Ni's request for a writ of mandate to order Slocum to accept the signature, handing an initial victory to the county and the California Secretary of State's Office, which contend electronic signatures are not allowed under the current elections code.
"The digital image of a purportedly completed initiative petition stored on a USB flash drive does not constitute a petition or paper for purposes of determining what the elections office must process," Miram wrote in his tentative ruling.
Still, Miram said during the hourlong hearing Thursday that he wants to think more about the case before issuing a final ruling within 90 days.