Will legislators never learn? The people want to take part in government too. Members of the legislature in the Beehive State want to sting the people once again with changes to make the initiative process more difficult. This time, to correct a “mistake” that was made two years prior.
The current law in Utah requires that ballot measures qualify with petition signatures based on the number of ballots cast in the previous presidential election, rather than the typical gubernatorial election basis. This was changed in 2011 to hamper possible initiatives during the period after a special gubernatorial election if the Governor were to step down or pass away while in office, when voter turnout would be markedly lower.
Such an election occurred in 2010, when Utah Governor Jon Huntsman resigned to become the US Ambassador to China. So with this special election, the signature requirements for statewide initiative petitions in the next cycle went down a whopping 32%! There were 302,219 fewer votes cast in 2010’s special gubernatorial election than in 2008’s general election. So, a group could qualify an initiative with roughly 64,000 valid signatures statewide, instead of almost 95,000, though they would also have to qualify the statewide issue in 27 of 29 state senate districts. No citizen-initiated measure has appeared on the ballot in Utah since 2007, when the powerful state teachers union placed a referendum on the ballot. The last initiative measure to make the ballot was in 2004.
When legislators changed the statewide rules, however, they did not bother to make the change applicable to county and local initiatives. So, for instance, a group in present-day Salt Lake County seeking to qualify an initiative would only be required to collect signatures totaling 10% of the ballots cast in the 2012 gubernatorial election, not the presidential election. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Keith Grover (R-Provo), claims he’s introducing HB14 to restore parity to the petition process in Utah.
Because they wouldn’t want it to be too easy, would they?