After a David slaying Goliath type effort by grassroots Conservatives, it is expected that the “Direct Primary Election Act,” a petition based on Progressive/Liberal principles, will be disqualified from the ballot in November.
This has led to “Political Insiders” complaining that their $3.1 million dollars has gone to waste. Conservatives everywhere are, of course, devastated at their loss.
Said one “political insider:”
“The tactics being used to rescind signatures are appalling. They are misleading and in many instances unethical. The chance to have something on the ballot to be able to vote on it is already a Herculean effort, and these unethical tactics to rescind signatures do not have a place in our democracy.”
Yet, in spite of their complaints, out of the hundreds of signature removals gathered by the pro-caucus efforts, where are the complaints of unethical behavior? If it required unethical behavior to get signatures removed, why did volunteers report that honesty and education were the best methods of gathering removals?
Former Governor Mike Leavitt called pro-caucus supporters, “dishonest,” and Rich McKeown, another sponsor of the Direct Primary Election Act, accused volunteers of “bullying,” and “unfair.” Yet the state elections director Justin Lee said his staff has, “had a few calls,” about the signature removal process, but no complaints of dishonesty, threats, or bullying.
Now, to be fair, there were reports of unethical behavior, though they were not from the pro-caucus movement. Pro-Direct Primary signature gatherers were charged and admitted to forging up to 472 signatures in Weber County.
More common than forgery, it seems was misinformation was the real culprit in gathering support for direct primaries. Volunteers who went door to door collecting signature removals reported a 70%+ success rate, simply by telling the truth. Read more about their education campaign here.
"Our "Political Insider" panel is a select group of Republican and Democratic politicians, officeholders, lobbyists, and activists. This survey is NOT scientific."
Should We Have Petitions At All?
One anonymous commenter on the article pointed out:
“Passing laws by initiative is a very poor way to make laws. It allows for no amendments, compromises, or other give and takes that carefully considered laws require. Therefore, allowing rescinding signatures is a check on poorly considered proposals.”
“I think initiatives generally make for bad policy (see California, for example) because they are not subjected to the same checks and balances–committee hearings, floor debates, veto, etc.–as traditional legislation. The proponents also don’t have to deal with the budget implications of the initiatives they pass. The Framers feared direct democracy for a reason. Consequently, I believe it should be hard to pass Initiatives–even harder than it is now.”
On the one hand, it is true, signature gathering is generally a terrible way to pass laws or nominate candidates. Some people will be highly informed on current events and candidate’s principles and history, but most people are not. Most people don’t have time to do so, which is why they elect their neighbors to be delegates and candidates to be government representatives. It is, in fact, the entire reason for representative government.
We elect representatives to read, debate, amend, and pass legislation. If they aren’t doing a good job representing you and your values, then let’s elect better representatives.
On the other hand, the Founding Fathers strongly believed in checks and balances. Petitions for citizen drafted laws can be a check on unresponsive representatives. It is not ideal, having better representatives is of course the ideal, and history shows the single path neighborhood caucus/convention system is the best way to achieve that.
Our representatives ought to be so in tune with the elected delegates, who represent the people, that we don’t need legislative petitions in the first place. But if we must have the dual path, and if we must have legislative petitions, let’s at least make them better than they are now.
Here are some ideas to improve signature initiatives:
- Lower the amount of required signatures per county, but require signatures be gathered at a government building on a digital kiosk to ensure signers truly care about the petition, rather than being collected door to door by paid staff.
- Require a valid government I.D. be scanned by the digital kiosk.
- Require petitions be contained to a single page of a specified font, size, and margin to ensure brevity and help increase understanding.
- Require petition be read aloud before signing.
How Difficult Is It To Get Your Name On the Petition?
To sign a ballot petition you need to provide your:
This information is typically fairly easy to come by, you will often see signature gatherers in front of the grocery store or Gail Miller’s Megaplex Theaters.
While the petition may be dozens of pages long, few, if any, signers have time to read through them all. This is the entire purpose of electing representatives, so they can be the professionals in reading and understanding complex legislation. That is the entire point of representative government, and why the Founders called pure democracy, “mob rule.”
Here is an example of a petition signature form.
How Difficult Is It To Get Your Name Off the Petition?
To remove your signature from a ballot petition you need to provide your:
- Last 4 digits of your social
- Entire driver’s license number
- The name of the ballot you want your name removed from
There tends to be considerably more pushback from people when requesting this information. It took building a relationship of trust, education, and passion in favor of the neighborhood caucus system for people to be willing to give such sensitive personal information over the past few weeks.
Here is an example of a petition signature removal form.
In other words, it is already considerably more difficult to remove your signature than it is to add it. It’s no wonder, then, that these “political insiders” want to make it impossible for voters to remove their support after learning more about what they have signed.
The hope of Delegate Digest is that there will be more transparency and accountability in the future for the petition signature gathering process, as we outlined above. The people of Utah deserve to know a) what they are signing, and b) to remove their signature if it was gathered by unethical means.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.