Utah Redistricting Commission (2010)

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A Utah Redistricting Commission Initiative did not appear on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Utah as an initiated state statute after initiative supporters failed to collect sufficient signature to place the initiative on the ballot.[1] According to supporters approximately 50,000 signatures were collected; well below the 94,552 minimum requirement.[2][3]

The ballot initiative was filed on May 6, 2009. The objective of the redistricting initiative was to establish a commission to set the state's 75 state legislative district boundaries, rather than continue with the current method whereby state legislators re-draw district boundaries after each decennial federal census.[4]

Ballot measure details

The following was the submitted ballot measure text:[5]

This bill enacts provisions in the Election Code to establish an independent redistricting commission.

This bill:

  • provides an intent statement;
  • provides definitions;
  • requires that redistricting occur only every ten years after the decennial census or in association with a change in the number of congressional, legislative, or state school board seats for a reason other than the decimal census;
  • provides the standards for election districts;
  • establishes and independent redistricting commission that is composed of Utah citizens;
  • establishes the membership requirements and procedures for the commission;
  • provides for the replacement and compensation of members;
  • requires the commission to prepare a redistricting plan for presentation at public hearings and to the legislature;
  • provides a uniform scoring matrix for the commission's creation and consideration when preparing a redistricting plan;
  • requires the commission's final plan to be based on the scoring matrix;
  • permits alternative plans submitted by citizens and commission members to be considered and scored by the commission;
  • requires the commission to hold public hearings on the plan approved by the commission;
  • provides the technical staff for the commission be provided by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel and permits the commission to hire its own legal counsel for legal assistance;
  • requires the commission to request a supermajority vote that the plan be submitted to the legislature for the legislature's approval or rejection at a Special Session;
  • requires the legislature to prepare a redistricting plan pursuant to the scoring matrix, in compliance with mandatory anti-gerrymandering standards, and subject to the Open and Public Meetings Act, Title 52, Chapter 4, if the commission's plan is rejected; and provides a severability clause.

Fiscal impact

According to the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget the fiscal impact of the proposed Utah Redistricting Commission would have been $1,036,000 in total fiscal expenses from the general fund. An additional $36,000 would have been used for the production and dissemination of voter information related to the staffing of the proposed commission.[6]

Support

The redistricting initiative was sponsored by a group called the Fair Boundaries Coalition. Its official sponsors were Mark Sage, Tania Knauer, Catherine Millicent Shaw Lewis, Mary Jo Bishop and Cynthia J. Bias-Thompson.[4] Most of the leading sponsors of the initiative were Democrats.[7]

Potential opposition

House Speaker David Clark indicated he would be active in dialogue on the issue. He chaired a 50-state redistricting committee for the National Conference of State Legislatures and said he generally preferred to have the Utah State Legislature continue to draw the state's legislative boundaries, as it currently does.[7]

Path to the ballot

The proposed measure was filed on May 6, 2009, after which the Lieutenant Governor of Utah had 28 days to review the document. A series of seven hearings in various locations throughout the state were held from July 1st through July 9th.[8]

In order to qualify the measure for the ballot, supporters were required to collect a minimum of 94,552 signatures by April 15, 2010.[9]

Signature removal bill

Utah may be subject to a new law that makes it easier for signers to get their names removed from citizen initiative petitions. Sen. Howard Stephenson's SB275 passed a Senate committee in February 2010, but requires a two-thirds majority by the House and the Senate before being enacted. According to the filed legislation, signees would no longer to have to provide a notarized letter in order to remove their name. All that would be required is a letter with personal identification attached. If approved, the new legislation would apply to currently proposed 2010 ballot initiatives. "All I want is for people to have a fair chance to remove their names," said Stephenson. However, initiative supporters are calling the proposed legislation an effort to "[try] to take power away from the people."[10]

In Mid-March 2010, the measure was approved with a two-thirds majority and can take effect as soon as it is signed by Gov. Gary Herbert. However, if the governor doesn't sign the bill, on April 1 the legislation can become law without his signature.[11]

The Senate Bill 275 bill can be read here.

Supporters request veto

In early March 2010 Utahns for Ethical Government (UEG) requested Gov. Gary Herbert to veto SB275, a proposed signature-removal bill. The bill, argue supporters of Utah Ethics Commission Initiative and the Redistricting Commission Initiative , would "undermine their petition drive." UEG treasurer Vik Arnold said in an email to the governor, "If the bill was NOT aimed squarely at the two citizens initiatives already under way, then why is it so important for the bill to have an expedited effective date?" According to Gov. Herbert's spokesperson Angie Welling the bill would not be expedited and the governor had not yet taken a position on the bill.[12][13]

Signed into law

Despite calls for a veto, on Saturday, March 27, 2010, Gov. Gary Herbert signed, what some call, a controversial signature removal bill into law. Removal of a signature can happen up to a month before petitions are due or become public. The new law applied immediately, despite just about two weeks left before the petition signature deadline for the 2010 ballot.[14][15]

Online signature solicitation

The Peoples Right LLC, a citizen group, announced in January 2010 that it was soliciting signatures for two Utah initiatives online - www.i-sign.us - including the Restricting Measure and Ethics Initiative.[16][17] According to Utah state law, electronic signatures are viewed as valid substitutes, however election code mandates that strict guidelines be followed for paper signature forms and only addresses.[16]

On February 10, 2010 both the attorney general and lieutenant governor announced that electronic petition signatures are not valid. "My review and analysis of the statutory provisions indicates that the laws governing initiatives do not contemplate or allow for the use of electronic signatures," said Attorney General Mark Shurtleff in a five-page analysis of the proposed online process.[18] According to reports the issue is likely to head to court.[19]

High Court ruling

In a June 22, 2010 ruling the Utah Supreme Court unanimously concluded that electronic signatures are just as valid as handwritten signatures and must be accepted by state election officials.[20] However, initiatives were not explicitly discussed in the ruling.[21]

Of the court's decision, the lieutenant governor said, "This is a brave new world where no one has gone before." Lt. Gov. Greg Bell said on Tuesday that he never rejected the idea of e-signatures but instead that his interpretation of state law differed from the court's.[22]

Supporters of the proposed Ethics Commission Initiative also plan to submit e-signatures for the 2012 ballot, however, initiatives were not explicitly discussed in the high court ruling.[22] On June 23 Utahns for Ethical Government delivered a request to Lt. Gov. Greg Bell asking him to review his decision on electronic signatures for initiatives. If no response or reversal of decision isn't granted then the group said they plan to seek legal action.[23][24]

See also

Articles

External links

Additional reading

References

  1. Associated Press,"Utah initiatives fail to make it onto ballot," June 1, 2010
  2. Associated Press,"Not enough signatures for redistricting initiative," April 16, 2010
  3. The Salt Lake Tribune,"Ethics initiative 'close' to making ballot," April 16, 2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 Utah Elections,"Utah Redistricting Standards Commission - List of sponsors," retrieved November 17, 2009
  5. Utah Elections,"Utah Redistricting Standards Commission - text," retrieved November 18, 2009
  6. Utah Office of Planning and Budget,"Fiscal Impact of Utah Redistricting Standards Commission," June 18, 2009
  7. 7.0 7.1 Salt Lake Tribune, "Democrats abound in redistricting effort", April 11, 2009
  8. Utah Elections,"Utah Redistricting Standards Commission - Public Hearings," retrieved November 17, 2009
  9. Salt Lake Tribune, "Group files redistricting initiative", May 6, 2009
  10. Deseret News,"Utah Legislature: Bill makes removing names from citizen petitions easier," February 19, 2010
  11. The Salt Lake Tribune,"Foes cry foul on petition law fixes," March 18, 2010
  12. The Salt lake Tribune,"Initiative backers urge governor to use veto pen," March 4, 2010
  13. Davis County Clipper,"2010 Legislature," March 11, 2010
  14. Associated Press,"Utah Gov. Herbert signs signature removal bill," March 28, 2010
  15. Deseret News,"Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signs controversial signature-removal bill," March 29, 2010
  16. 16.0 16.1 Associated Press,"Utah group hoping for green light on new system that gathers initiative signatures online," January 19, 2010
  17. Associated Press,"Utah ethics groups collecting online signatures," February 8, 2010
  18. The Salt Lake Tribune,"Lieutenant governor rejects online petition signatures," February 10, 2010
  19. Deseret News,"Utah Legislature: Initiative backers to fight exclusion of electronic signatures," February 10, 2010
  20. Associated Press,"Utah Supreme Court rules in favor of e-signatures," June 22, 2010
  21. KCPW,"No Decision Yet on E-Signatures for Ballot Initiatives," June 24, 2010
  22. 22.0 22.1 Deseret News,"Utah Supreme Court rules in favor of e-signatures," June 22, 2010
  23. The Salt Lake Tribune,"Ethics group seeks e-signature OK," June 24, 2010
  24. Standard-Examiner,"Group to revive online petition / Utahns for Ethical Government to seek signatures," June 22, 2010