Home>Articles>California Initiative, Referendum and Recall Reform Act – A Pathway to Digital Petitions

Voter at polls during presidential election, using paper ballots. (Photo: Rob Crandall/Shutterstock)

California Initiative, Referendum and Recall Reform Act – A Pathway to Digital Petitions

Given that the Democratic Party preaches “equity” and “equality,” improvements to petition accessibility should be a necessity

By Adina Flores, July 24, 2023 6:43 am

With tremendous effort, conservatives across the State of California campaigned to recall the atrocity known as Governor Newsom in the year 2021. According to Ballopedia, “of the 12.8 million voters who participated in the election, 61.9% voted to retain Newsom, and 38.1% voted to recall.” The variance in topography across the state places some groups of individuals in highly populated urban cities while others reside in rural areas surrounded by mere landscapes. While petitions requiring wet signatures are the norm, what possibilities could the transition to the digital realm present?

On July 1, 2023, Initiative 23-0007 “California Initiative, Referendum and Recall Reform Act” was submitted to the state’s Attorney General’s Office by Proponent Michael F. Liddell. The action seeks to propose amendments to the Elections Code in which voters may sign petitions electronically directly on the California Secretary of State’s website. The system as proposed would allow the Secretary of State to then verify the authenticity of electronic signatures. Per Statista, “as of 2023, approximately 92 percent of individuals in the United States accessed the internet, up from nearly 75 percent in 2012. The United States is one of the biggest online markets worldwide and in 2022, there were nearly 299 million internet users in the country”.

Given that the Democratic Party preaches “equity” and “equality,” improvements to petition accessibility should be a necessity.

Who is Michael F. Liddell?

Dr. Liddell originates from generations of family who historically helped pave the way in the United States. He holds deep rooted respect for our nation’s core system of values which in turn lead to the preservation of the principles which established our Golden State. As his children and future grandchildren stand to inherit their future, he aims to preserve the essence set forth by our Founding Fathers for all youth.

Although the field of chiropractic has been Dr. Liddell’s career for the past three decades, his private practice is currently dormant as he directs his full focus to political solutions. He strives for the implementation of a ballot which can be properly debated and shared with all voters to decide upon. His core family, including his wife of 25 years (partner of 35 years) and 3 awesome young adult children all share his passion and support in their own way. The sacrifices they have made as a family have helped to create improvements for everyone across the board.

As a political activist for nearly a decade, Dr. Lidell has participated in everything from local school boards to statewide issues. He represents solutions that he believes will help resolve differences created when laws and ordinances are passed that fundamentally attempt to alter one’s core values. From these experiences, he has learned to rise above his personal issues and focus on making systemic changes that benefit all constituents. He wishes for everyone who feels and believes they are not represented, truly represented, in our current system of governance to have a voice.

Our elected officials should be true public servants, and not just a promise of servitude to get elected. These sentiments extend to anyone who has felt marginalized, excluded, passed up, and underestimated by those in governance. He represents those who wish to be included in the decision making processes, dream of a better future, and brighter and healthier planet that is full of opportunity. As stated by Dr. Liddell, “I am a true public servant, and as such I believe in the divine right to simply take life in with all its splendor, to share, learn, grow and teach. I am the self appointed guide to help us find our way back to unity and inclusion! I am simply a persistent yet ultimately concerned California citizen trying to fix our ability to resolve our differences peacefully. We all deserve to live in a state which puts its people at the top of the priority list and our children and their future above that!”

The current California elections code refers to all power being inherent in the people. While already firmly embedded in our state constitution, the general public is unaware of how to implement or uphold the essence of the words written in the code itself. Our elected officials at all levels across the state appear to understand their place in the pecking order of political governance.

If our election laws are not serving the average citizen as intended, reform is needed.

Making initiative, referendum and recall function as balanced components to compliment our voting system provides full accountability directly to the voters it serves. This is the only way we will ever evolve to become the most inclusive form of government which is driven by the people it was designed to represent.

We have all the necessary tools already built into our laws, they just need to be modernized and ignited. We currently utilize the solution of electronic signatures in every other aspect of our day to day lives, including registering to vote, and even filing campaign finance reports. The hypocrisy is prevalent, as our government houses our digital signature and holds us to a gold standard to validate our intent.  However, we cannot use the same tactics to participate in our proposal process. We must possess trust in the system whether we are fond of the outcome, or not. As illogical liberal policies and laws continue to surface, confidence within the citizens continues to dwindle.

As referenced by Cal Matters, “Newsom was outspoken about technology problems in California’s bureaucracy even before he was elected. He called for pushing democracy into the digital age with a book he co-authored in 2013: “Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government.” In an interview with Google, Newsom said, “California is on the leading and cutting edge of 1973”. “Nobody wants to take risks. Nobody wants to stick their neck out,” said former state Sen. Dean Florez about state technology decisions. Florez said Newsom’s biggest challenge will be getting bureaucrats on board with a major tech overhaul.

“I think Newsom wants to get California to the cloud,” he said, a costly move. “ It would be a big change for the state of California to forgo those legacy systems and move to things like the cloud.” Still, the Newsom administration remains confident that this is the best next step. “Governor Newsom is committed to transforming the way citizens interact with their government for the better,” said spokesman Brian Ferguson in a written statement. “The goal of this new office is to tap into and grow the creativity, innovation, and transparency that already exists elsewhere in our state to improve the way the executive branch approaches the delivery of technology and services to the public.“


Across California, we witnessed our petition circulating elections system collapse during the pandemic, which resulted in the destruction of signature gathering campaigns. Voting was remedied by mail, and Californians faced failure as public elections processes were compromised. Campaign organizers took a financial loss with the inability to move forward. This all could have been avoided if our system was modernized. Stakeholders may feel uncomfortable sharing their personal address and information with a stranger, let alone a signature sample. Measures of safety, security and privacy are all critical to advance our elections development. Legalizing electronic signature gathering brings balance, and to such an extent that the use of initiative referendum and recall processes would decrease.

Oh, what a splendid state this would be if Governor Newsom exited stage right!

“The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

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4 thoughts on “California Initiative, Referendum and Recall Reform Act – A Pathway to Digital Petitions

  1. All that proves is that you have a computer.
    Ballot harvesting will be easier since they will only need a laptop device or a cell phone. It seems voting is the only area in the state they seek to “improve”. To whose benefit? These are the same clowns who mailed ballots to last known address. Watch them change their minds when fingerprints are required on your device before you can hit “enter”, or AI determines votes were one after the other in a care home and flags the votes as “needing more input”! But at least the have to dig up the dead!

  2. I presume “Given that the Democratic Party preaches “equity” and “equality,” improvements to petition accessibility should be a necessity” is an example of Adina Flores using satire.

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