Utahns, be prepared to vote on at least one citizen initiative petition on this November’s ballot.
Monday night was the deadline to turn in signature packets for various groups seeking to give voters a chance to decide new state law on four issues.
And one group – Count My Vote – is very confident they will have the 113,000 statewide voter signatures required, with the needed 10 percent of voters in 26 of 29 state Senate districts.
“We should have around 175,000 signatures overall,” said Taylor Morgan, director of the CMV effort.
And, says Morgan, CMV should have “multiples” of the required 10 percent in the required 26 Senate districts.
The petitions are listed below, along with their support in a recent UtahPolicy.com poll by Dan Jones & Associates:
- Count My Vote. (Favored by voters, 63-19 percent.)
- Medical Marijuana. (Favored, 77-21 percent.)
- Independent Redistricting Commission (Better Boundaries). (Favored, 58-20 percent.)
- Full Medicaid Expansion. (Favored, 61-34 percent.)
All four groups sent out press releases Monday saying they believe they will make the ballot. But it’s not likely all will.
CMV says they have 175,000 signatures.
Better Boundaries, 190,000 signatures.
Medical Marijuana, 165,000 signatures.
Again, the tricky part is getting the 10 percent in 26 of 29 state Senate districts.
And overall signatures don’t tell the whole story.
For example, according to a Monday morning update from the Utah Elections Office on CMV, of the 126,401 signatures turned in as of last week, only 106,433 were “valid.”
The other signatures were kicked out because the signee isn’t a registered voter, or gave the wrong home address, or signed the petition more than once or had other disqualifying factors.
The Our Schools Now citizen initiative backers made a deal with the 2018 Legislature and ended their petition drive with promises of significantly more public school funding.
Signature packets were due by 5 p.m. in county clerks’ offices. The clerks, with the Utah Elections Office overseeing the verification effort, must give a final count by May 15.
“So, we won’t know for sure until then,” said Morgan. “But we are very confident” CMV will make the November ballot.
And CMV – with some heavy-hitters behind it, like former GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt and Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller – believe it will have the funds to run a successful pro-CMV voter campaign this fall.
Of course, some bosses inside the Utah Republican Party are against CMV – and have been suing in federal court to overturn SB54, the 2014 legislative compromise law that guarantees the dual-route by candidates to the party primary election ballot.
CMV would enshrine SB54 into law – with a hope-for show of voter approval that deters any messing with the law by future Republican legislators.
The state party basically bankrupted itself over fighting SB54 in court – only to be apparently saved by web-based entrepreneur Dave Bateman who has “acquired” the party’s attorneys’ debt.
But SB54 continues to tear the state GOP apart -- a fight that will show itself, again, in Saturday’s state Republican delegate convention.
Morgan said CMV is not worried about any organized effort to get CMV signees to change their minds and remove their approving signatures.
Petition signees’ names will become public. And any group or individual can contact signees asking them to remove their names – a power in law for some time, but one that has never changed a petition’s outcome.
A group of anti-CMV/SB54 Republicans – Keep My Voice – announced last week that they were not even going to turn in their petition packets – because they were woefully short of the required numbers.
Their petition would have asked voters to repeal SB54 – just the opposite of CMV.
By getting 175,000 overall signatures, and hundreds of extra signees in outlying state Senate districts, says Taylor, CMV will likely be able to withstand any attempt, by KMV or factions within the Republican Party or others, to kill CMV by getting some signees to change their minds and remove their signatures.
Also confident they made the Monday deadline with enough signatures are backers of a medical marijuana petition.
That effort, however, is iffier than CMV.
First, the medical marijuana petition is close in several Senate districts.
Perhaps more importantly, a week ago the leaders of the Mormon Church came out opposed to the MM petition – although in a rather wishy-washy way, the First Presidency saying it backed the Utah Medical Association’s opposition to medical cannabis.
The big if here is this:
Should medical marijuana make the November ballot, will LDS Church officials take a more active opposition role, beyond just their statement?
Pollster Jones finds that among “very active” Mormons, the cannabis petition is favored, 66-30 percent, with 4 percent undecided.
Local Mormon wards are highly organized. If local bishops are told by church leaders to push members to take their names off of the petition (remember, the signees’ names are public), then the petition numbers could fail – especially in more Mormon, rural state Senate districts.
Should LDS leaders not ask for such an overt effort, they could still actively, publicly oppose the marijuana petition at election time – trying to kill it in the Nov. 6 vote.
All that is speculation, however.
The four petitions still must be officially certified by local county clerks and the Utah Election Office – a May 15 reckoning yet to come.