Referendum and Democracy List, for Italian and European Digital Democracy

On the occasion of International Day of Democracy 2022 EUMANS, a paneuropean movement of popular and nonviolent initiative presents its Italy-based action called “Democracy and Referendum”.

The day “was established through a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly in 2007, encouraging governments to strengthen and consolidate democracy. International Day of Democracy is to provide an opportunity for people to participate in democracy and urges the government to respect the rights of people”

The action "Referendum and Democrazia" was launched to protect, and promote, civil and political rights in a crucial moment for the democratic life of the Italian Republic and was in line with the “observations” adopted in 2019 by the UN Committee on Human Rights that denounced “unreasonable obstacles” for Italian citizens to access all forms of democratic participation (i.e. referendum, popular bills and elections).

The various actions launched since the end of July offer a “case study”, but more importantly and a precedent for other EU Member States to consolidate or foster reforms to strengthen human rights and the Rule of Law within the EU.

The “Referendum and Democracy List” initiative focuses on the transition towards a digital democracy in line with the EIDAS Regulatory Framework and the construction of a Digital Identity also through a Digital Signature as a concrete solution to overcome different types of hurdles for individual and collective democratic participation, with particular attention to:

1) Remove the obstacles to civic and political participation
2) Facilitate access and activation of institutional instruments to promote referendum, bills of popular initiatives, or any other action at the local, national and international level.
3) Streamline all of the above throughout the Union

What follows is a timeline of all the action.

2019 - Spring 2022 -  Institutional and public Aìawareness raising campaign on the possibility to use of the digital signature in Italy to activate article 75 of the Constitution and civic and political participation along the lines of the observations adopted by the UN Committee on Human Rights in 2019 in che Case “Staderini - De Lucia V. Italy”.[1]

Participation in the first Digital Collection for Referendum (almost 900.000 signatures collected to promote a referendum to legalize Euthanasia and Cannabis).[2]

Public and institutional actions to urge the implementation of the Digital Platform to allow online signing by the Italian Draghi’s Government as per a law adopted in 2020. [3]

Availing itself of the system of a private service provider, the Associazione Luca Coscioni launches a platform to collect signatures to submit referenda to legalize Euthanasia and Cannabis. The online signing for the first referendum, which tabling campaign had started in May, was opened on 12 August 2021 and on the first day collected over 10.000 signatures, the online signing for the Cannabis referendum was launched on 11 September and in five days it collected over 500.000 signatures. Both campaigns, which together in a month collected some 900.000 signature, demonstrated that once those “unreasonable obstacles” are removed people participate in large numbers. The Referendums were rejected by the Constitutional Court, but not for the way in which they had been presented to the Cassation Court. [4]

Upon the resignation of the Draghi Government at the end of July 2022, a new Appeal to the PM and the Minister of Digital Innovation was launched by the Associazione Luca Coscioni and EUMANS to urge the setting up of the public platform to collect online signature expanding it to the presentation of electoral lists as Parliamentary Elections were called for 25 September.

The current electoral law exonerates groups represented in Parliament to collect signatures and requires that almost 70.000 physical signatures, certified by a public officer and certified by municipality where the voter is registered, are collected by new political forces who want to participate. Signatures must be collected on a list of candidates specifying if the group is running alone or in coalition and with whom.

To complement the public appeal, Eumans and the Associazione Luca Coscioni wrote letters to President Draghi, to all Ministries, Members of Parliament as well as the President of the Republic to urge the possibility to digitally sign for the presentations of new lists and redress the discrimination created by the need to collect dozens of thousands of signatures in less than three weeks, in the mids of Summer denying the possibility for newcomers to enter coalition agreements with lists that are not required to collect signatures because already present in Parliament.

The institutional silence suggested additional actions, on 27 July, Virginia Fiume, EUMANS co-president, wrote again to President Draghi and the Head of State Sergio Mattarella starting a hunger strike to ask for the recognition of digital signatures for the electoral campaign, in a few days other 27 people ìjoine the hunger strike for a few days and more open letters were issued .

A letter is sent to the leader of the leading opposition party Giorgia Meloni.

A letter is sent to the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella. 


Despite the lack of replies, hunger-strikers decided to stop and to launch a platform to collect candidatures to eventually prepare lists for the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate and the European constituencies of for both Chambers, choosing “Lista Referendum e Democrazia con Marco Cappato” as a name.

In a weekend over 800 people made themselves available to run as candidate knowing that the eventual presentation would only be in digital format, a format not (yet) recognized by the current electoral system. The second week of August the List launched a site to collect signatures for the various constituencies. The launch happened in an online press conference during which a technical dossier was also presented to legally motivate the action.

Few phases of the action happened physically, one was on 14 August by Marco Cappato, co-president of EUMANS and Marco Perduca, legal representative of List, who presented the symbol of the list to the Electoral Office of the Ministry of the Interior, launching there and then the collection of signatures on a private platform adjusting the service provider used for the 2021 referendum.

Each signature cost 1,50 Euros, for the first few days signers were asked to pay before signing on 18 August, thanks to an online fundraising launched by EUMANS, signing was allowed at no cost.

In mid-August, Mr. Perduca, briefed a OSCE delegation present in Rome to gather information on the ongoing electoral campaign.

A few hours before the 22 August deadline to submit the signatures Marco Cappato wrote again to Mario Draghi urging an emergency decision to end the discrimination against new electoral lists and with other candidates and supportrs a 3-hours walkaround was staged at the seat of the Government. Meeting the deadline in at least eight national constituency for the Senate and for both Chambers for Europe, signatures were physically deposited at the Courts of Appeal, where the necessary number of signatures was not reached the submission happened via PEC(electronically certified email) claiming that the digital signatures collected should be considered valid Reference While the Courts of Appeal accepted the digital submission, the Electoral Offices considered the online signing not valid.

Appeals were lodged in all Constituencies, all were rejected.

A first letter is sent to the Minister of Interior Luciana Lamorgese to ask for an immediate intervention.

A final appeal to the Milan Tribunal is presented by Professor Giovanni Guzzetta, which specifically refers to the eIDAS Regulation.

A hearing is scheduled for 19 September, finally the Government has submitted its argument on the matter.


In May 2022 the European Union concluded the works of the Conference on the Future of Europe. The inter-institutional project aimed at involving citizens and civil society organisations in suggesting reforms needed to foster the integration and democratization processes of the European Union. In particular Sortition Based Citizens Panels and an Interactive digital platform have been included in the process. Considering the fragility and the limitations of the systems put in place, concerning inclusion, transparency, among other issues (followed by EUMANS as member of the Citizens Take Over Europe coalition), the Conference on the Future of Europe triggered a series of actions that was followed up in the State of the Union by President of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen on 15 September. A Feedback Conference with the EU citizens from the citizens panels is scheduled to take place in December with the launch of the new digital platform Have Your Say to facilitate the participation of citizens in deliberative processes.

Based on the technologies for the Digital Wallet and other research on the EU Digital Identity, the proposal is to create an ecosystem where citizens-users can log into their local administration portal and access all the options of participation with a verify ID (SPID-example)

The political goal is an harmonization of the Member States regulations on participatory democracy instruments and their technological enablement. Proposals for protocols for technological interoperability between local, regional, national and European platforms should become the “new normal” to foster the development of a European citizenship of democratic participation and a civic artificial intelligence.

The Conference on the Future of Europe Platform is developed with DECIDIM, the same technology used by administrations such as Barcelona, Madrid and Milan for their local participatory democracy initiatives. Digital instruments for participatory democracy should be implemented also for local, national and transnational Citizens’ Assembly, following and strengthening Conference on the Future of Europe model and the lessons learned through the process.



  • 2 September, An urgent appeal was filed by the "Referendum and Democracy with Cappato" list during an online press conference following its exclusion in the 2022 elections, aimed at obtaining the list's admission in the Lombardy constituency.
  • 15 September, International Day of Democracy: actions in Rome, Turin, Milan, Bruxelles and other cities were organised to call for the immediate launch of the digital platform of participation in Italy.
  • 20 September: The Court of Milan rejects the appeal of the Referendum and Democracy List. This is a nonsensical decision, because it imputes to us that we did not prove the existence of the signatures, attributing to the list a duty - the verification of signatures - that is the responsibility of the Court of Appeals and certainly not of the presenters. This is also why we will file an immediate complaint.
  • 21 September: Hybrid Events was organised in the Hague on A (human) rights-centered AI design, and December (Brussels) in conjunction with Science for Democracy as part of The Consumers Empowerment Project to address the civic use of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Citizenship.
  • 21 September: Marco Perduca, spoke at an international seminar “Democracy in Europe: threats and opportunity” at the University of Goteborg
  • 25 September: After the Court of Milan rejected, on nonsensical grounds, the appeal requesting recognition of the validity of digital signatures, the List invites , on the day of the Italian parliamentary elections, supporters to have a statement recorded at the polling stations against its exclusion from the elections: an action that will serve to give strength to the upcoming national and internation
  • 13 October: “Let’s reactivate democracy”, a meeting on the eve of the national congress of the Associazione Luca Coscioni at the Modena University to organise further actions in Italy and EU.
  • 20-21 October: Presence in Prague for the EU Summit in collaboration with the coalition Citizens Take Over Europe to advocate for the adequate follow up to the Conference on the Future of Europe


[1] As per the final observations resulted from the Staderini-DeLucia decision of the United Nation Committee on Human Rights Italy was obliged to modify its legislation on the collection of signatures collections concerning participatory democracy initiatives to overcome the “unreasonable bureaucratics” obstacles posed to the activation of deliberative democracy instruments by the 1970 Law that regulates referenda and popular bills.

[2] As a temporary measure to provide alleviating and innovating possibility for the populace to cope with the pandemic, at the end of July 2021 the Italian Parliament voted on an amendment that allowed the use of a private platform to collect digital signatures, anticipating in this way the entry into force of what foreseen in the 2019 Budget Law.

An amendment to the 2019 Budget Law earmarked the necessary resources to launch a platform for digital signatures to comply with the decision of the United Nations. The platform was supposed to be ready on  1 January 2022.

[4] In February 2022, the Italian Constitutional Court declared both referendums inadmissible with sentences that the promoting Committee considers to be politically motivated. The promoters are working to appeal that decision