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Initiative sponsors to sue over online signatures

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The sponsors of a legislative ethics initiative say they will file a lawsuit to try to force the state to count 10,000 electronic signatures they have collected to put their measure on the ballot.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The sponsors of a legislative ethics initiative say they will file a lawsuit to try to force the state to count 10,000 electronic signatures they have collected to put their measure on the ballot.

Alan Smith, an attorney for Utahns for Ethical Government, says the group will be seeking judicial relief. It was unclear when a lawsuit might be filed.

The move comes after the Utah Supreme Court ruled that signatures gathered online should be counted for candidates trying to put their name on the ballot. Smith contends the same logic should apply for initiatives.

But the lieutenant governor's office says verification rules have to be drafted before electronic signatures can be counted.

"We're saying we'll use statutory language to create a rule and if they can comply, fine. If they can't, we'll let the court decide if they're going to roll over the law and change it," said Paul Neuenschwander, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell's chief of staff.

Among other things, the ethics initiative would create a code of conduct for state lawmakers and ban corporate campaign contributions.

Utahns for Ethical Government's bid to get on the 2010 ballot fell about 20,000 signatures short of the 95,000 needed, although more than 10,000 electronic signatures weren't counted.

However, the group contends it has until August to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot in 2012. The lieutenant governor's office says it is unclear whether signatures gathered for an initiative on the 2010 ballot can still be counted for one on the 2012 ballot.

Neuenschwander said a draft of the electronic signature rule has been prepared in consultation with the Attorney General's Office. He said attorneys have told the office that any rule they issue would not be subject to the Administrative Rulemaking Act, which requires an opportunity for public comment.
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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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