One should always be wary when a legislator is trying to increase or decrease the number of people necessary to make a petition appear on a ballot. When they are trying to reduce the number, it is generally because they have some form of pet project that they wish to push through, but also want to avoid the messy work of actually having to create legislation and be on the record.
Lately, the trend has been to increase requirements to have a successful petition request show up on the ballot. Sure enough, it would appear that Representative Keith Grover (R – Provo, District 61) is attempting to make it more difficult for people to access their government.
HB 14 – Requirements to Change Form of County Government deals specifically with the ability for citizens to successfully petition the government to change their particular form of county government (Most commonly to switch from a county commissioner style (Like in Utah County, home of Rep. Grover) to a representative style similar to Salt Lake County.
Currently, for a petition request to go through, petitioners must collect 10 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in the county during the last election; the only requirement being that you are a registered voter, not that you necessarily voted in the last election. So, for example, if your county had 1,000 votes cast for the governor, you would need to collect 100 signatures from registered voters. What HB 14 does is change the requirement to 10 percent of votes cast for president.
This can have a profound effect on a petitioners ability to successfully change their county government. Since the year 2000, statewide, we average about 15,600 more votes for president than for governor – to put it another way, presidential votes are almost 2 percent higher than gubernatorial votes. These numbers are somewhat skewed by Mitt Romney’s appearance on the ballot last November, however even taking that into account, presidential votes are 1.1 percent higher, on average, than gubernatorial votes.
In short, this bill is raising the requirement from 10 percent to 11-12 12 percent in order to be successful. Using the analogy above in our mythical 1,000 vote county, petitioner would need to gain an additional 10-20 signatures in order to be successful. Now this may not seem like much at that scale, but if we are talking Utah County (177,713 votes for president, 175,123 votes for governor in 2012) or Salt Lake County (381,799 for president, 378,107 votes for governor in 2012) you start to have a better picture. A Utah County resident would need to collect 259 additional signatures for a total of 17,713 valid signatures; Salt Lake County residents an additional 369 for a total of 38,180.
Now, consider how difficult it has been for petitioners to successfully get a petition on the ballot. In 2010, the non-partisan organization Citizens in Charge gave Utah a grade of C- when it comes to the ability for citizens to petition the government – and since then things have only become more difficult. What Representative Grover is doing, in essence, is making it even more difficult for citizens to have a say in how their government actually functions. What Representative Grover is doing is taking away your voice. This is wrong, and this is a bad bill.
To contact Rep. Grover, Click Here or call 801-319-0170
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill
– A special thanks to Dylan McDonnell for assisting with the creation of this post.