(cross posted at Fox & Hounds Daily)
Conservatives say they like judges who follow the law and the original intent behind it. Liberals say they like judges who understand the world and have empathy.
I like judges who agree with me.
In that vein, there were two very agreeable court decisions on the initiative process in the past week.
The first came from Utah, where the state Supreme Court ruled that, under that state's law, electronic signatures are as valid as pen-and-paper signatures for qualifying candidates for the ballot. The unanswered question is whether this ruling will apply to ballot initiatives. But the ruling was significant; it's believed to be the first time that e-signatures have been found to be valid for the purposes of ballot qualification.
The second came this morning as the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Washington state law that makes initiative and referendum petitions - and the signatures on them - public records.
Together, the rulings envision the initiative process as a wide-open vehicle for the use of citizens. The ruling on electronic signatures, if it spreads, could reduce the costs of qualifying measures for the ballot and thus lead to more use of initiative and referendum (which is another reason why now is the time to reform the process - before usage is increased).
And with its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to recognize the reality that signing a petition is a public act - in fact, when it comes to initiative and referendum, signing a petition is a legislative act - and that the people who sign can't be shielded from accountability for what their decision to do so.