Businesses use them to make contracts, ship mail, even sell your house: Digital signatures are becoming more commonly used in e-commerce because they facilitate business across the state, nation, and globe. But earlier this month, a CA Superior Court judge axed the use of e-signatures for ballot measures. Silicon Valley’s Verafirma attempted the high-tech feat, collecting signatures using iPhones. Secretary of State Debra Bowen sided with the court, saying the state’s election code doesn’t allow use of e-signatures in initiative drives. She also shared her handwriting capabilities: “I think my scrawl on the checkout stand in the grocery store bears no resemblance to the signature on pen and paper.” We think this might be a case of legacy regulations losing relevance – in light of digital signatures used by credit card companies and mail services, perhaps it’s time to start saving some green in the ground and in the wallet and revise the laws keeping us in the age of Walley and the Beavs.
The concept itself is by no means new; telegraphed signatures date as far back as the Civil War, and we’ve been faxing signatures since the 80’s. So we ask – why pause progress? Especially in the state that’s home to dozens of electronic signature service companies.
But this month brought hope. Despite her recent efforts, it doesn’t look like Bowen has the authority to derail the proverbial tech-train. Eight Santa Clara county residents have registered to vote by signing their names on mobile touchscreens. County Registrar Jesse Durazo gets the credit for making history as the first American election official to allow that kind of voter registration, which can be done on iPads, iPhones and other mobile touchscreen devices. Here at CALinnovates we applaud Durazo and Verafirma, (who created the proposal), for paving the way for democracy, technology, and all other 57 counties to get “signed”-up. Some worry the signatures may be hard to verify and provide the chance for fraud, but when top banks like Wells Fargo allow customers to open accounts via electronic signature…who can argue? Certainly not us. And although the California election code doesn’t include Mac friendly jargon like “iPhone” or “iPad”, maybe it should. Unless someone sues Durazo, the e-signatures will stand, and we’re right there behind ‘em…chicken scratch and all.