I’ve been
reading documents from the lawsuit filed by Michael Ni, a San Mateo County
voter associated with the firm Verafirma, seeking to have electronic signatures
accepted for initiative petitions.

case is moving through the courts. The state argues that the law does not
permit such signatures. Verafirma disputes that.

what struck me in the court documents were a couple of powerful briefs, both
from progressives, that make the argument that electronic signatures could be a
force for political engagement. Antonio Gonzalez, president of  the Southwest Voter Registration Education
Project, wrote the court that e-signatures could ease engagement among Latino
voters – because while turnout among such voters is low, the "Latino adoption
rate for smartphone technology is
outpacing that of the total population."

The consultant
Joe Trippi filed a particularly strong letter with the court. Trippi wrote:

extensive experience with technology and grassroots campaigns leads
me to believe that allowing voters to sign initiative petitions on mobile
devices will lead to increased participation and engagement in the American
political process.  It will be a boon to
true grassroots democracy and
has the potential to wrestle control away from the well-financed special interests
that have a monopoly on the initiative process in the opinion of 92 percent
of Californians.

Trippi counters objections that
electronic signatures would make it too easy to qualify initiatives – and thus
fill the ballot with nonsense:

exciting as this new technology is, I’m aware that some fear that
California ballot will be flooded with initiatives and referenda because
will be too easy to sign. This view lacks an important understanding
of politics and technology that I’ve gained over the past
decades.  People must be motivated to
actively participate in political
campaigns.  Technology may make political participation
more accessible,
you cannot build a grassroots movement without true passion.  For
a great website using the latest and most expensive technology
a topic about which no one cares will have minimal traffic.  Just
you build it does not mean they will come. 
Likewise, an initiative that
is meaningless or trivial will attract little grassroots support.  If you
circulate it
online, people will not sign. On
the contrary, if California voters are allowed to sign an initiative
a mobile device or online, it will likely be the result of a more thoughtful
rather than a rushed encounter with a paid signature gatherer at the
grocery store.   Individuals may find all
the pertinent information
the initiative on their own time from the comfort of their home on a mobile
device or computer.  They may read the
full initiative text and pro
con arguments, and learn about the initiative’s key funders, supporters and

new technology makes online organizing and social
less expensive and easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact,
most online initiative campaigns that attempt to recruit volunteers or raise
money never make it off the ground for the simple reason that there is already
so much competition or "noise" out there that it’s difficult to break through,
much less hold someone’s attention for more than a few seconds. 

think it highly unlikely that we will see a proliferation of trivial
California because individuals will have the ability to sign petitions on mobile
devices.  Again, only initiatives that
represent the feelings of true grassroots
efforts will successfully garner a substantial number of signatures.  I believe we will see a greater quality of
initiatives, not a greater

Let’s hope he’s