Saskatchewan

Sask. Elections chief says online signatures acceptable for plebiscite petitions

Saskatchewan's Chief Electoral Officer Michael Boda says digital signatures are acceptable for petitions trying to trigger a plebiscite in the province.

Sask. Liberal Party launched petition with hope of plebiscite on COVID inquiry in April

Elections Saskatchewan Chief Electoral Officer Michael Boda says digital signatures are fine when used in a petition to try to force a plebiscite. (Submitted by Elections Saskatchewan)

Saskatchewan's Chief Electoral Officer Michael Boda says digital signatures are acceptable for petitions trying to trigger a plebiscite in the province.

Last month, the Saskatchewan Liberal Party launched an online petition hoping to trigger a plebiscite vote on if there should be an independent inquiry into the provincial government's COVID-19 response.

The petition question on the party's website reads, "Do you think the current Government led by Scott Moe should be made to establish an independent Inquiry to inquire into and report on the Government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Saskatchewan?"

To start the process for a potential plebiscite, a petition needs 15 per cent of eligible voters, which in Saskatchewan would be roughly 126,000 signatures.

Saskatchewan's Referendum and Plebiscite Act was last modified in 1990, long before online signatures existed.

On Friday, Boda released a bulletin with his decision on whether digital signatures are sufficient.

"After consideration, I have determined that an electronic signature satisfies the legal requirements found in The Referendum and Plebiscite Act."

Boda said he is available to discuss and offer advice to political parties on the legislation he oversees.

"I would strongly encourage Chief Official Agents to be in touch with my staff as you consider how your registered political party might operate most effectively within the confines of the law."

The Saskatchewan Liberal petition was created on April 19 without knowing whether Boda and Elections Saskatchewan would allow digital signatures.

As of Monday, the petition has 6,523 signatures.

Boda said neither the act nor The Referendum and Plebiscite Regulations include instructions on how the chief electoral officer would verify signatures and does not include a definition of signed or signature.

"However, there does exist The Electronic Information and Documents Act, 2000. This legislation states that where a law requires a signature, this can be satisfied by an electronic signature," Boda wrote.

In 2016, Boda released a discussion paper on the province's referendum and plebiscite act.

"I am concerned that the province's current legislative and regulatory framework would not allow Elections Saskatchewan to administer a referendum/plebiscite in an efficient and economical manner or at service levels that citizens would expect," Boda wrote.

Elections Saskatchewan estimated the cost of a mail-in-ballot referendum outside of an election to be $4 million.

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