Cover: Signing Initiative Petitions Online: Possibilities, Problems  and Prospects

Signing Initiative Petitions Online: Possibilities, Problems and Prospects

Published 2001

by Walter S. Baer

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A petition is currently circulating in California that would authorize use of electronic signatures over the Internet to qualify candidates, initiatives, and other ballot measures. Proponents of Internet signature gathering say it will reduce the influence of well-financed special interest groups, and increase public participation in the political process and public understanding of specific measures. Its opponents question the adequacy of Internet security to prevent widespread abuse and argue that it would place those without access to the Internet at a disadvantage. This paper describes how voters would use the Internet to "sign" petitions, and also discusses the security, cost, access, and equity issues that pose obstacles to online petition signing. The paper outlines trends in Internet voting, e-commerce, and e-government that may affect the development of Internet petition signing. Although online petition signing will not be ready to be implemented in time for the next election cycle, public pressure to authorize it continues to build and could prove unstoppable within a few years.

Originally published in: Public Policy Institute of California.

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