May 8, 2011

e-Signature Petition Case Goes Back to Court

A KEY hearing in the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco will be held Tuesday to determine whether Verafirma, a Silicon Valley startup, can gather initiative signatures on touchscreen devices such as iPads and smartphones.

Verafirma, which already has the blessing of Santa Clara County to register voters with electronic signatures, was founded last year by San Jose political strategist Jude Barry; Michael Marubio, an East Bay e-signature expert; and Michael Ni, a high-tech entrepreneur. Last year, Ni submitted an e-signature to the San Mateo County Elections Office to help qualify the legalized-marijuana initiative, but the office refused to accept it.

Warren Slocum, then the chief elections officer, argued that courts must determine whether the electronic signature meets California's election code standards requiring it to be "personally affixed" to a petition. A lower court ruled against Verafirma, but everyone knew the real battle would be fought on appeal.

A group of strange political bedfellows has encouraged the Court of Appeal to allow the e-signatures. They include the Humane Society of the United States, the Southwest Voter Education Registration Project, the Asian American Action Fund, conservative Steve Forbes'

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