Even though the deadline to verify and remove signatures from the “Count My Vote” ballot initiative has passed, the fight will likely continue to rage on at least until June 1.
That’s the day the Utah Elections Office will certify whether the proposal to solidify Utah’s current dual-track system to the primary ballot made November’s ballot or not.
Utah’s system for putting a citizen-led initiative on the ballot is extremely rigorous. Backers must gather more than 113,000 signatures from registered voters statewide, but they also must submit signatures equal to 10% of the vote in the previous presidential election in 26 of Utah’s 29 Senate districts.
The Keep My Voice group launched a concerted effort to encourage signators to remove their names from the initiative ahead of Tuesday’s deadline. The organization, led by Entrata CEO Dave Bateman, mostly targeted three Senate districts where they felt they could get enough signatures to prevent the initiative from clearing the 10% threshold: SD7 (Utah County), and SD28 and 29 (primarily Washington County). Count My Vote had crossed the threshold for qualification in 26 Senate districts, so if they fall short in just one district, they would fail to qualify for the ballot.
On Monday, Keep My Voice organizers declared victory on Facebook, saying they were able to turn in enough signature removals in those districts to deny Count My Vote enough signatures to secure ballot access.
However, according to internal numbers from Count My Vote shared with UtahPolicy.com, there were still more than 10,000 outstanding signatures statewide for their initiative still waiting for verification by county clerks. Those include approximately 4,000 names in those three Senate districts alone. Tuesday was the deadline for clerks to finish verifying signatures and submit final totals to the Utah Elections Office. Following that, elections officials will work to process the signature removal forms to determine whether the initiatives have enough signatures both statewide and in the required 26 of 29 Senate districts.
Given the slow pace of verification, it does not seem likely that county clerks would be able to process those outstanding signatures before the May 15 deadline. The verified signature numbers from Count My Vote provided by the Utah Elections Office have stagnated over the last few days, suggesting that county clerks had stopped counting altogether. The Count My Vote group tells UtahPolicy.com they were working with several county clerks to work through the signature backlog before the deadline. Additionally, CMV will meet with state elections officials later this week to see what can be done to clear the backlog of signatures and “make sure every signature is counted.”
Does that mean legal action? It’s hard to say right now, but it’s probably a smart bet that this issue ends up before a judge, no matter what happens. Count My Vote officials say
Right now, the fate of CMV will hinge on how successful opponents are at getting signatures rescinded from the petition. To test that, a source within CMV tells UtahPolicy.com earlier this month they submitted a GRAMA request for more than 500 signature removal requests in Utah County. Only two of those requests came from the postcards that CMV opponents. The other requests were mostly form letters provided by Keep My Voice. A cursory examination of a small sample of those form letters found that only a handful of those actually signed the original petition.