Herbert: Ballot initiative process needs to be fixed

Gov. Gary Herbert suggested Utah’s process for putting citizens initiatives on the ballot is broken. 

“It’s unfair when people go out and get 113,000 signatures or more, and can have their ability to put their petition on the ballot thwarted by a few hundred people in one county,” said Herbert at his monthly KUED press conference. “If you get the signatures on, it should be voted up or down.”

Currently, a petition initiative qualifies for the ballot if backers get more than 113,000 signatures statewide and signatures equal to 10% of the vote from the previous presidential election in 26 of Utah’s 29 Senate districts. But, opponents can encourage those who signed the petition to remove their signatures, which could drop the initiative below the threshold and keep it off the ballot.

That possibility has come into play with the Count My Vote petition, which aims to solidify Utah’s current dual-track path to the ballot for candidates. Opponents have been trying to remove enough signatures to keep it off the ballot.

Since the legislature passed the 2014 compromise that created the dual-track system, there have been numerous attempts by Republicans to repeal SB54. Previously Herbert has said he would veto any effort to undo the dual-track system, but on Thursday he was more noncommittal on his support if the legislature moves to kill the dual-path.

“The operative word is ‘if,'” said Herbert. “We already have a law on the books about how we conduct elections. Who knows what law will come up? If it’s an improvement, we’ll support it. If it’s not an improvement, we would not. We’ll have to wait and see what takes place.”

Herbert also said he’s not happy with tactics being used on both sides of the initiative process.

“There are some bad actors out there. People are forging signatures, which is not good. But, the disinformation being put out there is unfortunate. Democracy is messy, and people aren’t staying in their lanes,” he said.