Friday the House passed a bill whose sponsor said was to correct a “mistake” made in 2011 on this issue.
Utah is one of the few states that elects its governor in the same cycle as president of the United States.
Utahns vote in greater numbers during a presidential election year than in the off-election year.
In fact, said Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, sponsor of HB14, the voter turnout is about 40 percent higher in a presidential year than in a non-presidential general election in Utah.
The citizen initiative law used to say that the number of signatures required to qualify a petition to the ballot would be based on the number of Utahns voting in the last gubernatorial election. (That formula was raised at times making it harder to get an initiative on the ballot.)
When legislators decided it was wise to require an interim, off-year gubernatorial election if the governor stepped down or died in his first two years in office, they didn’t realize that if that should happen any initiative petition coming based on those lower voter turnout in that “special” election would make it easier over the next two years to get an initiative on the ballot.
Loath to have a “special” gubernatorial election that would have 40 percent fewer voters, and thus a lower threshold for a petition to make the ballot, lawmakers decided to change the petition law to read that petition signatures must be based on the number of voters casting ballots in the last presidential election, rather than the last gubernatorial election.
But when they did that, said Grover, they forgot to put into the new law county citizen initiative petitions.
Don’t want county residents to have a lower petition threshold, either, legislators realized.
HB14 “fixes” that “mistake.”
If HB14 passes the Senate – and why wouldn’t it? – those seeking to make county ordinances when their county governing body refuses to do what they want, will have to meet a higher threshold in getting their citizen initiative petition signatures on the ballot – the presidential threshold voter turnout rather than a “special” gubernatorial election voter turnout.
Another blow struck in favor of the democratic republic in which we live – where our elected representatives should make law, not the citizens, even when our elected representatives refuse to do what citizens clearly wish (can you say school vouchers?)