SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Lt. Governor is defending the law that allows voters to remove signatures from a citizen referendum petition.
In a new court filing before the Utah Supreme Court, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox pushed back on Count My Vote’s request to strike down a portion of election law dealing with signature removal.
Count My Vote, which would allow political candidates to gather signatures and skip the caucus-convention system that political parties prefer, failed to qualify for the November ballot after enough voters removed their signatures following an opposition campaign by a rival group called Keep My Voice.
Count My Vote has argued that it’s very tough to get signatures on the ballot, but too easy to remove them. In its filing, the Utah Attorney General’s Office, which represents Lt. Gov. Cox, defended the law and told the Court that Count My Vote was the only one that failed to qualify.
“If semantics and statistics have objective meaning, a threshold that 75
percent of initiative sponsors cleared this year cannot fairly be called unduly
burdensome,” Utah Solicitor General Tyler Green wrote. “But CMV still tries. It even uses the Medical Cannabis initiative as an example. Like CMV’s initiative, the Medical Cannabis initiative faced organized opposition and signature removals. Yet it qualified for the ballot.”
The Lt. Governor recently defended his authority to put qualifying ballot initiatives before voters in November in a lawsuit filed by opponents of medical marijuana. But in this lawsuit, he’s defending an election law process that lets opponents seek to undermine the initiative.
“To be sure, the Legislature could set rules that govern organized efforts to gather signature-removal forms. It might even be good policy for the Legislature to do so. But the mere fact that the Legislature has stopped short of passing those rules ‘is not a viable, standalone basis for a uniform operation challenge,'” Green wrote.
Count My Vote has been the subject of an ongoing civil war between factions of the Utah Republican Party. It was originally a ballot initiative, then became a compromise law passed by the legislature allows candidates to gather signatures to qualify for the ballot or go through the state party convention. That triggered a lawsuit by the Utah GOP, which has argued the law steps on their First Amendment free association right to advance candidates. So far, federal courts have upheld the compromise law.
Mitt Romney, Congressman John Curtis and Gov. Gary Herbert have all gathered signatures after being forced into primary races by more conservative candidates that advanced through the state GOP convention.
After failing to qualify, Count My Vote asked the Utah Supreme Court to hear its petition in an effort to get before voters in November.
Read the court filing here: