‘Political Insiders’ say it should be more difficult to remove signatures from ballot initiatives

As the effort to remove signatures from two proposed ballot initiatives turns nasty, our “Political Insiders” say the requirements to get Utahns to take their names off those proposed ballot initiatives should be more difficult. 

Opponents of the medical marijuana and “Count My Vote” ballot initiatives are paying canvassers to encourage Utahns to remove their signatures from the ballot initiatives. A coalition of groups, including the Utah Medical Association and Utah Eagle Forum, have mounted an effort to remove signatures from the medical marijuana initiative, while the “Keep My Voice” group, led by Entrata CEO Dave Bateman, is pushing to stop the “Count My Vote” initiative from reaching November’s ballot.

To make it to the ballot, a petition must secure more than 113,000 signatures statewide as well as signatures equal to or more than 10% of the last the presidential vote in 26 of Utah’s 29 Senate districts. If enough Utahns remove their names from the ballot initiatives, it could mean the difference between getting on the November ballot and defeat.

Additionally, the timelines for signature gathering and removal do not match up. This year, petition organizers had until mid-April to submit the required signatures, while opponents then had a month to push for signature removal.

Our “Political Insiders” mostly say that the requirements to get Utahns to rescind their signatures from the petitions are too easy and should be stricter.

  • 51% of the Republicans on our panel say the requirements for removing signatures should be stricter.
  • 73% of the Democrats on our “Insider” group say signature removal should be more difficult.
  • 68% of our readers also say signature removal requirements should be more strict.


Selected anonymous comments:

For some reason, we are quite afraid of signatures in this state. A signature on a ballot only shows one’s support for an additional vote on the issue – saying it should be considered. That’s the case with a signature to put a candidate on a ballot, and it is the case with an initiative. Once you sign a petition, that signature should not be able to be removed unless it is proven to be a forgery.

The tactics being used to rescind signatures are appalling. They are misleading and in many instances unethical. The chance to have something on the ballot to be able to vote on it is already a Herculean effort, and these unethical tactics to rescind signatures do not have a place in our democracy.

The current system, with the high bar for signatures in Senate districts, is fair. The process for removing signatures is bad policy, though. A voter can’t change his or her vote after election day. Citizens should be treated like adults, with the ability to make an adult decision about whether to sign a petition. Allowing removal of signatures does not advance any good policy, and only serves to allow deceptive tactics and dirty politics. Once verified, a signature on a petition should be treated the same as a vote cast.

The legislature has already made the initiative process onerous, once signed signatures should not be removed. Allowing them to do so can cause gaming of the process. Imagine if KMV had thousands of supporters sign CMV to push CMV to submit as soon as it crosses the threshold, only to then kill the initiative by having those same supporters withdraw their signatures. It undermines the already difficult initiative process.

It’s very hard to get the required signatures; it would lead to very odd games if people sign something in bad faith to make counting more difficult as they pull the rug out on the thousands at the end of a process.

The REAL problem with the current initiative system is that well funded outside of Utah interests are funding these initiatives, and for most of them virtually none of the money is coming from Utah. In effect, these out of state groups that don’t care about Utah can spend relatively little compared to other states to change major policy in Utah. That needs to be looked at and changed so that there is a law requiring most of the funding for initiatives to come from organizations and citizens from Utah if possible.

If anything, the two timelines should match up with one another. People can sign an initiative or remove their name at any point in time up to a specific deadline.

The burden to get on the ballot is too high and the time given to opponents to talk people into removing their name is too long. There should be repercussions for lying about the initiative, too. The whole thing is clear that the legislature will do anything possible to keep the people from putting forth an initiative!

Or the signature gatherers should be allowed another period for gathering more signatures.

Those backing Keep My Voice argue that the Count My Vote Initiative will turn Utah’s electoral system into a California style one. But Dave Bateman and friends fail to see the irony of the California Initiative and Proposal citizen guerilla tactics they are using to protect the iconoclastic Caucus/Convention system. Just add about 15 more Initiatives/Proposals and Utah can really vote like Californians.

What isn’t fair is that misinformation campaigns can be waged and signatories can be pushed to remove their signature after signatures can no longer be gathered. Everyone should work on the same deadline.

The requirements are far more stringent to remove a signature than it is to sign it in the first place. People who sign a petition have the right to remove their signature if they change their mind.

I think initiatives generally make for bad policy (see California, for example) because they are not subjected to the same checks and balances–committee hearings, floor debates, veto, etc.–as traditional legislation. The proponents also don’t have to deal with the budget implications of the initiatives they pass. The Framers feared direct democracy for a reason. Consequently, I believe it should be hard to pass Initiatives–even harder than it is now.

We should let the legislature do what they are elected to do.

The legislature has made it increasingly more difficult. The fact that there are so many citizen initiatives demonstrates that lawmakers are not listening to the concerns of the people they serve.

People should be able to rescind their signatures because of the way they are gathered by misleading unscrupulous political hacks pushing an agenda.

A few hundred targeted citizens should not have the power to undermine the earnest work of hundreds of volunteers and the deliberate signing of over a HUNDRED THOUSAND Utahns. It’s a much more rigorous process or rescinds on a local petition. State initiative signatures should be as hard to remove and should be required by the date the petitions get turned in.

If I remember correctly, this process was tweaked in the 2010 session to require an equal spread of signatures among the counties. That increased the difficulty, and I believe it was a good change. As far as removal, no. I’ve watched too many gathering signatures lie to get a signature. I think it’s only right that the opposition canvass as well to offer another point of view. It should be as easy to take them off as it is to add them in the first place.

It is a fair system, but it is up to the voter to do a little research on both sides of the issue. They must understand what they are signing and then be prepared to research if they are contacted about rescinding their signature. As I was.

The beauty of living in a free society is that you are at liberty to change your mind within certain parameters, usually having to do with time. If you change your mind about a recently purchased jacket from Macy’s, you’re free to return it before the warranty period expires. The same principle applies to ballot additions.

There should maybe be more signatures required. The signatures of 3 to 4% of the population is a pretty low bar to the ballot.

The whole initiative process is so tough that it voids our constitutional right to citizen initiative. The ability to rescind signatures should be eliminated.

Disqualifying an initiative should be more difficult than rescinding only a few hundred signatures. That flaw in our current law has been exploited by the “Gang of 51” and their cronies. Someone in that gang must be a real language geek with an innate ability to find holes in a statute. It’s a shame not to use that ability to build rather than to tear down the Utah GOP…Good grief!

Utah adopted the “Digital Signatures Act” decades ago to facilitate online commerce, recognizing that this was a secure way of doing business and verifying the identity of the person signing. We do billions of dollars of business online, legal documents are submitted to our court system with online signatures. The only reason that online signatures are not allowed for citizen initiatives is that the legislature fears that the will of the people will actually drive public policy rather than their individual agendas. If online signatures were allowed it, you could eliminate the cost involved in gathering signatures, and the legislature would be forced to address the will of the people or have the people impose their will on the legislative process.

It’s also dangerous for citizens, opponents wanting to remove people’s signatures can purchase the list from the Elections office of people who have signed in favor of the petition which includes their full legal name, their date of birth, and their street address. To remove their signatures they then provide their Driver’s License and the last 4 of their social security number. This is a disaster for individuals trying to keep their identities safe.

Once signed, no rescinding…like voting.

The process of getting an initiative on the ballot in Utah is already more difficult in Utah than in many other states. And we’re certainly seeing this year that groups like Keep My Voice and UMA can abuse the process of rescinding signatures with manipulation and dishonesty. Changes are needed.

There is a reason they ask for signatures on ballot initiative petitions to be in ink! You are damned right we understand we are signing. Requirements for rescinding signatures should not only be difficult; it should be impossible. There should be no such provision!

Time periods to sign or be removed should be the same. That is all. I also think people in this state are finally starting to realize how powerful and, at times full of themselves, our lawmakers are. Just look at Count My Vote and the anti-gerrymandering initiatives.

It’s also inappropriate for the opponents of a ballot initiative to have access to the information of everyone who supported it, so they can retaliate and intimidate someone who chose to participate in the process of citizen involvement with elections and ballot initiatives. For the same reason why we don’t provide the details of how voters voted, to prevent intimidation and retaliation of voters… those who participate in state-approved ballot initiatives should be able to do so without the fear of retribution. I had a veteran friend in southern Utah who turned these canvassers away(he was rude about it), and they retaliated by calling the police and anonymously reporting him for smoking marijuana. Imagine the outcry from Eagle Forum if the opponents for Amendment 3 in 2004 were able to access the personal information of every supporter, including their home address and then sent paid harassers to intimidate, threaten, and coerce all the amendment 3 supporters until they rescind their support for that now proven unconstitutional amendment?

What other process in our legal system allows only one side to talk to the decision-maker? When citizens assume the responsibility of recommending policy for the ballot, they should have the chance to hear both sides.

Not fair… all the rescinded signature efforts are no different to the big monied lobbyists that already own our legislators. To subvert the people’s ability to craft and choose laws themselves is unconstitutional.

Unlike many States, the bar is set high to get an Initiative onto the Utah Ballot. This is a good thing, and those of us who’ve lived in States where it is easy appreciate not having scores of Initiatives on every ballot, requiring 30-45 minutes simply to vote that election. The bar should remain this high so that only initiatives with substantial support can ever reach ballot status.

There are many issues with the entire system, including the fact the legislature can still make wholesale changes to any approved initiative or rewrite any or all of it is not fair. The standards to remove signature should be the same for collecting. Collectors need to registered voters, and signing to remove your signature should be the same for collecting them. The state has made it virtually impossible to pass an initiative by design.

Passing laws by initiative is a very poor way to make laws. It allows for no amendments, compromises, or other give and takes that carefully considered laws require. Therefore, allowing rescinding signatures is a check on poorly considered proposals.

I think people should only be able to rescind signatures by going to their county clerk office in person. Allowing people to go to someone’s door with false information to get people to remove their signatures should be considered criminal and those who hired, sent, organized the rescinding activities need to be held liable for what is happening. There is NOTHING fair about what the UMA is and has been doing during this whole process.