The Effects of Electronic Signatures on the Petitioning Process and Democracy
AbstractThe right to petition the government, which is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution, is a powerful tool by which people can keep a check on their government leaders. Recently in the state of Utah, activist organizations and citizens demanding a greater voice in politics have pushed for government to permit the use of electronic signatures on petitions. Acceptance of electronic signatures on government petitions would fundamentally transform the way that petitions are organized and executed; this, in turn, could change the nature of democracy in the United States by giving more direct political power to the people. This paper provides a background on the constitutionality of the right to petition, examines the recent debate between Utah politicians and activist groups over the use of electronic signatures in the petitioning process, and arrives at a conclusion on whether the acceptance of electronic signatures will be a benefit or hindrance to democracy. I propose that this new mechanism to gather and collect signatures for petitions, with cooperation from government leaders, could enhance the system of democracy by lending more direct power to the people and making it possible for citizens to make an educated decision to sign a petition rather than a quick one.
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