SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Supreme Court said Tuesday that state election officials must accept online petition signatures to qualify individuals for the ballot. “A signature under (Utah law) does not require a signor to physically handle a piece of paper and sign her name with a pen,” justices said in a 15-page ruling issued as voters went to the polls for primary elections. “An electronic signature is sufficient to satisfy the election code.” In March, Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell rejected a nominating petition from Farley Anderson, an independent gubernatorial candidate, saying state law did not allow for e-signatures. Anderson had included more than 150 e-signatures on his petition. In its ruling, the court said the decision “exceeded the bounds of discretion” afforded Bell’s office. The ruling orders signatures submitted by Anderson be recounted to determine whether he qualifies for the November ballot. “The court’s opinion, which is the first of it’s kind nationwide, has the potential to increase significantly the ability of independent candidates to access the general election ballots,” said Darcy Goddard, legal director for the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued the case on Anderson’s behalf. Utah law acknowledges that electronic signatures are valid substitutes for handwritten ones, but the state attorney general’s office argued that e-signatures on petitions could not be counted because election law only contemplates a paper-based system. No other state allows for e-signatures in the election process. Bell’s office scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon.
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