Instructions for a Statewide Initiative

A statewide initiative is a petition to propose a new state law.  If the petitioners collect the required number of signatures, the law may be submitted to either the legislature for its consideration or to the voters at an election for their approval or rejection. To place a statewide initiative on the ballot, the sponsors of an initiative must complete the procedures described below.

If a group of individuals raises or spends money in relation to a ballot proposition, it will likely need to register a Political Issues Committee (PIC) with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and regularly disclose finances.  Click this link to read the PIC “quick guide.”

DISCLAIMER:  These instructions contain recommendations and suggestions, but they should not be construed as legal advice. The information in this guide is not a substitute for Utah State Code.  If any inconsistency exists between this website and statute, the statutory language governs. Please consult Utah State Code Title 20A Chapter 7 Part 2.


Step 1:  Determine the Initiative’s Signature Requirement (Utah Code 20A-7-201)

Sponsors must collect a certain number of handwritten signatures to place an initiative on the ballot or submit it to the legislature.  If the sponsors want to place an initiative on the ballot, they must collect 115,869 signatures of registered voters in Utah. In addition, sponsors must ensure that they meet specific signature thresholds in at least 26 of the 29 state senate districts.  Click this link to view these requirements.

If the sponsors plan on submitting a proposed law to the legislature for its consideration, sponsors must collect 57,935 signatures of registered voters in Utah and meet specific signature thresholds in at least 26 out of 29 state senate districts.  Click this link to view these requirements.

These requirements are based on the number of active voters on January 1, 2019.  The requirements will change on January 1, 2021 and every two years thereafter.


Step 2:  File an Application with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office (Utah Code 20A-7-202)

Application forms may be obtained at this link.  Sponsors may file the application at the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, by mail, or email.  The application must contain the following:

  • The name, residence address, and notarized signatures of at least five sponsors.  Having more than five sponsors is acceptable, but it is not required.
  • A statement indicating that each sponsor is a resident of Utah and has voted in an election in Utah within the last three years.  If the sponsors are unsure whether they meet this requirement, they may contact their county clerk to obtain confirmation.
  • A copy of the proposed law that includes, in the following order:
    • The title of the proposed law that clearly expresses the subject of the law;
    • A description of all proposed sources of funding for the costs associated with the proposed law, including the proposed percentage of total funding from each source; and
    • The text of the proposed law.
  • If the initiative proposes a tax increase, it must include the statement, “This initiative petition seeks to increase the current (insert name of tax) rate by (insert the tax percentage difference) percent, resulting in a(n) (insert the tax percentage increase) percent increase in the current tax rate.”
  • A statement indicating whether persons gathering signatures for the petition may be paid for doing so.

Although it is not required, it is recommended to designate one sponsor as the main point of contact between the sponsors and the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.  

Initiative law does not require the text of the proposed law to be written in a particular format; however, it is recommended that the text follows standard legislative drafting practices to avoid potential issues with codification in the future.  You may refer to the legislative drafting manual and Utah Code Title 68 Chapter 3, Statute Construction for guidance.


Step 3:  Review by the Lieutenant Governor [Utah Code 20A-7-202(5)]

After the application is submitted, the Lieutenant Governor will either accept or reject the application. The Lieutenant Governor must reject the application under the following circumstances:

  • The proposed law is patently unconstitutional;
  • The proposed law is nonsensical;
  • The proposed law could not become law if passed;
  • The proposed law contains more than one subject (refer to Utah Constitution Article VI, Section 22);
  • The subject of the proposed law is not clearly expressed in the law’s title;
  • The proposed law is identical or substantially similar to a law proposed by an initiative for which signatures were submitted to the county clerks and lieutenant governor for certification within two years preceding the date on which the application for the new initiative is filed.

Please note that initiatives must propose statutory laws; they cannot amend the Utah Constitution (refer to Utah Constitution Article XXIII, Section 1).

The lieutenant governor will accept or reject an application before providing petition materials to the sponsors (refer to Step 7).


Step 4:  Preparation of an Initial Fiscal Impact Estimate (Utah Code 20A-7-202.5)

Within three business days of receiving the application, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office will forward the proposed law to the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst (LFA).  LFA will then prepare an unbiased, good faith estimate of the fiscal impact of the proposed law. Refer to Utah Code 20A-7-202.5 for more information on the content that the estimate will include.  LFA will prepare this estimate within 25 calendar days of receiving the application and deliver it to the first five sponsors listed on the application.

If the sponsors believe the initial fiscal impact estimate, taken as a whole, is an inaccurate estimate, they may challenge it in court within 20 calendar days.  Refer to Utah Code 20A-7-202.5(5) for more information.


Step 5:  Sponsors Hold Public Hearings (Utah Code 20A-7-204.1)

After receiving the initial fiscal impact estimate, the sponsors must hold at least seven public hearings in seven regions throughout the state:

  • One hearing in the Bear River region — Box Elder, Cache, or Rich County
  • One hearing in the Southwest region — Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, or Washington County
  • One hearing in the Mountain region — Summit, Utah, or Wasatch County
  • One hearing in the Central region — Juab, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier, or Wayne County
  • One hearing in the Southeast region — Carbon, Emery, Grand, or San Juan County
  • One hearing in the Uintah Basin region — Daggett, Duchesne, or Uintah County; and
  • One hearing in the Wasatch Front region — Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, Tooele, or Weber County.

Two hearings must be held in a first or second class county, but not in the same county.  Click on this link to view current county classifications.

Sponsors must wait one calendar day after receiving the initial fiscal impact estimate to hold the public hearings.  Sponsors may schedule the hearings so they occur at the same time/date or at different times/dates.

Providing Notice

Sponsors must provide sufficient notice of the public hearings to the lieutenant governor, elected officials, and the public by doing the following:

  • Provide written notice to the lieutenant governor.  This must be done before 5:00 pm at least three calendar days before the date of the first public hearing.  Emailing the notice is acceptable.
  • Provide written notice to each state senator, state representative, and county commission or county council member who is elected in whole or in part from the region where the public hearing will be held.    This must be done before 5:00 pm at least three calendar days before the date of the applicable public hearing. Emailing the notice is acceptable.
  • Publish the time, date, and location of the public hearing in each county in the region where the public hearing will be held by:
    • Publishing it in a newspaper of general circulation within the county at least three calendar days before the day of the public hearing.  A newspaper of general circulation is defined by Utah Code 45-1-201.  If there is no newspaper of general circulation within a county, sponsors must post one copy of the notice, and at least one additional copy of the notice per 2,000 residents of the county, in places within the county that are most likely to give notice to the county’s residents.  This posting must also be done at least three calendar days before the day of the hearing. Alternatively, sponsors may forego a newspaper publication by mailing a notice to each residence in the county at least seven calendar days before the day of the public hearing.
    • Publishing it on the Utah Public Notice Website at least three calendar days before the day of the public hearing.  Because sponsors do not have administrative rights to this website, they will need to contact the Lieutenant Governor’s Office to publish this notice.
    • Publishing a legal notice in accordance with Utah Code 45-1-101 for at least three calendar days before the day of the public hearing.
    • Publishing it on the county’s website for at least three calendar days before the day of the public hearing.  Contact each county to coordinate the publication of this notice.

If the initiative proposes a tax increase, the written notice must also include the following statement, in bold, in the same font and point size as the largest font and point size appearing in the notice:  “This initiative petition seeks to increase the current (insert name of tax) rate by (insert the tax percentage difference) percent, resulting in a(n) (insert the tax percentage increase) percent increase in the current tax rate.”

Conducting the Hearings

There is no required agenda for each hearing, but it is common for the sponsors to begin with a brief explanation of the initiative and open the floor to members of the public who wish to provide feedback or comments.  However, state law requires the sponsors to do the following at each hearing:

  • Post a copy of the initial fiscal impact statement in a conspicuous location at the entrance to the room where the hearing is being held.  This must be posted during the entire time the hearing is held.
  • Place at least 50 copies of the initial fiscal impact statement in a conspicuous location at the entrance to the room where the hearing is being held.  These copies should be available for distribution to attendees.
  • Record each hearing (video or audio) and provide the files to the Lieutenant Governors’ Office.  In lieu of video or audio recording, the sponsors may take comprehensive minutes of the public hearing that include the names and titles of each speaker and a summary of their comments.

Step 6 (Optional): Revise Text of Initiative [Utah Code 20A-7-204.1(5)]

This is an optional step.  After completing the public hearings, the sponsors have an opportunity to change the text of the proposed law.   The change must be germane to the text of the original proposal, and it must meet the standards outlined in Step 3.

To change the text, the sponsors must file an application addendum with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office that contains the sponsors’ notarized signatures and the new text of the law.  Sponsors must file this addendum before 5:00 pm within 14 days after the day on which the seventh public hearing was held.

If the sponsors file an addendum, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office will provide a copy to LFA within three business days.  LFA will then prepare a new initial fiscal impact estimate within 25 calendar days. State law does not require sponsors to hold more public hearings after revising the text of the law.


Step 7:  Compile and Print Petition Packets (Utah Code 20A-7-204)

Approximately three business days after completing the public hearings and/or obtaining an updated initial fiscal impact estimate (refer to Step 5), the Lieutenant Governor’s Office will provide a petition packet template to the sponsors.  Sponsors are responsible for printing and binding petition packets. Each packet must contain the following pages in the order listed below:

  • One cover page;
  • One copy of the proposed law;
  • One to fifty signature sheets (packets do not need to have a uniform number of signature sheets, but they may not exceed 50); and
  • One circulator verification sheet.

Each packet must be bound across the top in at least three places using staples, stitching, or spiral binding.  Packets must be bound prior to circulation, and they cannot be taken apart or rearranged once bound. The packets and their signatures will be rejected if this is done.  Refer to Utah Code 20A-7-203 for more information on the formatting of the petition.

All petition packets must be numbered (e.g., 100000, 100001, 100002).  Sponsors may enter into an agreement with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office that allows the sponsors to number the packets.  The agreement will provide sponsors with an acceptable range of numbers (e.g., 100000 – 199999), and it will stipulate that packets must have a unique number.  Contact the Lieutenant Governor’s Office for more information.


Step 8:  Collect Petition Signatures (Utah Code 20A-7-205)

Refer to Step 1 for information on signature requirements.  Sponsors must collect handwritten signatures from registered voters throughout the state.  Electronic signatures are not permitted. It is recommended that sponsors collect more signatures than the required amount because signatures may be disqualified or signers may remove their signatures from the petition at a later time (refer to Step 9: Signature Verification).

Petition Circulator Requirements

State law outlines several requirements for petition circulators:

  • A circulator must be at least 18 years of age and a resident of Utah.  A circulator is not required to be a registered voter, but it is recommended because it allows the county clerks to quickly verify a circulator’s age and residency.
  • A circulator must complete the verification sheet in each packet that she or he circulates.  
  • A circulator cannot sign her or his own petition packet.  If a circulator wishes to sign the petition, she or he must sign a packet circulated by another individual.
  • Each petition packet must be used by only one circulator.  If there are multiple circulators, they will each need their own packet.
  • Circulators must inform each signer that she or he is required to read and understand the law proposed by the initiative.
  • Circulators may be volunteers, or they may be paid.  If circulators are paid, sponsors must file a report with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on March 10, 2020 and again on October 27, 2020 that lists the names of the initiative sponsors and the name of the initiative.  An emailed statement is acceptable. Refer to Utah Code 20A-7-205.5.

Registering Petition Signers to Vote

If an individual wishes to sign the initiative petition but is not registered to vote in Utah, the circulator may provide the individual with a voter registration form.  Sponsors should ensure that the completed voter registration form is processed by the appropriate county clerk before submitting the petition signature for verification.

Acceptable Locations for Circulation

Initiative law does not specify where circulators can or cannot circulate petition packets.  However, sponsors should consult appropriate ordinances or policies before collecting signatures on public property and receive permission from property owners before collecting signatures on private property.


Step 9: Submit Signatures for Verification (Utah Code 20A-7-206)

Sponsors must submit petition signatures to county clerks for verification.  If a packet is circulated within a county, sponsors must submit the packet to that county’s clerk.  If a packet is circulated within multiple counties, sponsors may submit the packet to the county clerk of any of the counties in which the packet was circulated. A signature packet is generally submitted to the county clerk of the county in which the majority of the signatures were gathered.

The submission deadline depends whether the initiative is submitting the proposed law to the people or the legislature.  If the initiative is submitting the proposed law to the people for their vote, the sponsors must submit a petition packet to the appropriate county clerk before 5:00 pm no later than the earlier of:

  • 30 calendar days after the day on which the first individual signs the initiative packet;
  • 316 calendar days after the day on which the original initiative application was filed; or
  • February 18, 2020.

If the initiative is submitting the proposed law to the legislature, the sponsors must submit a petition packet to the appropriate county clerk before 5:00 pm on November 15, 2019.

Once the packets have been submitted, the sponsors cannot retrieve them.


Step 10: Signature Verification and Removal (Utah Code 20A-7-205, 206, and 206.3)

After receiving a petition packet, a county clerk will apply the standards outlined by Utah Code 20A-7-206.3 and 20A-7-206(5) to verify the signatures in the packet.  If a packet is received before December 2, 2019, the county clerk will verify the signatures within 30 calendar days.  If a packet is received on or after December 2, 2019, the county clerk will verify the signatures within 21 calendar days.

After verifying a petition signature, a county clerk will post the name, precinct, and voter identification number of each petition signer residing in the county on the county’s website.  Signers’ names will remain on the website for 90 calendar days if the packet was received before December 2, 2019 or 45 calendar days if the petition packet was received on or after December 2, 2019.

Removing Petition Signatures

A petition signer may request that her or his signature is removed from the petition by submitting a statement to the county clerk.  Refer to Utah Code 20A-7-205(5) for more information about requirements and deadlines regarding signature removal.

Posting Updated Signature Totals

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office will regularly post updated signature totals for each initiative on this website.


Step 11: Evaluation by the Lieutenant Governor (Utah Code 20A-7-207)

Before April 30, 2020 and after the county clerks have verified all petition signatures, the lieutenant governor will issue a declaration that states whether the petition is sufficient or insufficient and immediately notify the sponsors.

Depending on the type of initiative,  the lieutenant governor will direct county clerks to include the initiative on the 2020 General Election ballot or deliver the initiative to the legislature for its consideration at the next legislative session.  For more information on initiative petitions delivered to the legislature, refer to Utah Code 20A-7-208.


Step 12: Drafting the Ballot Title (Utah Code 20A-7-209)

If an initiative is placed on the election ballot, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office will assign a proposition number (e.g., Proposition #6) to the initiative, and the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel (OLRGC) will prepare a ballot title by June 26, 2020.  The ballot title is a 100 word statement that summarizes the contents of the initiative.


Step 13: Voter Information Pamphlet (Utah Code 20A-7-703, 704, 705, 706)

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office will publish a voter information pamphlet and distribute it to voters throughout the state.  The pamphlet will contain information about the initiative, including the initial fiscal impact statement, an impartial analysis prepared by OLRGC, text of the proposed law, and arguments for and against the initiative.  Click this link to view previous versions of the voter information pamphlet.

Initial Arguments

Sponsors may submit an argument in support of the initiative (the PRO argument) to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office before 5:00 pm on July 10, 2020.  Legislators and members of the public have an opportunity to submit an argument against the initiative (the CON argument) as well.

The arguments cannot exceed 500 words, and it must include the name and address of the individual submitting the argument.  If the argument is being submitted by an organization (e.g., Utahns for Proposition #__), the argument must include the name and address of the organization and the names and addresses of at least two of the organization’s principal officers.  The required names and addresses do not count against the 500 word limit; however, listing any names or addresses that are not required, such as listing a third principal officer for an organization, would count toward the word limit.

Rebuttal Arguments

If the Lieutenant Governor’s Office receives a PRO and CON argument, it will immediately forward the arguments to the opposing side.  Each side will then have an opportunity to submit a rebuttal argument to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office before 5:00 pm on July 30, 2020.  The rebuttals cannot exceed 250 words, and, like the initial argument, the rebuttal must include the name and address of the author or the organization and its principal officers.

Revision

The author or authors may revise their argument after submitting it to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office under the following circumstances:

  • To correct spelling or grammatical errors;
  • To properly characterize the position of a state entity, if the argument mischaracterizes the position of a state entity;
  • The argument has not yet been submitted for typesetting; and
  • The changes are made jointly with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.

Step 14: Election and the Certification of Results

Election Date

If the Lieutenant Governor declares a petition to be sufficient (refer to Step 11), the initiative will be placed on the November 3, 2020 General Election ballot.

Ballot Format [Utah Code 20A-7-209(2)(d) and 20A-7-210]

The ballot will include the proposition number (e.g., Proposition #6), the initial fiscal impact statement, the ballot title, and the voting options of FOR and AGAINST.   Ballot propositions are placed at the end of the ballot.

Canvassing (Certification) of Results (Utah Code 20A-7-211)

Each county will certify its vote totals 7-14 calendar days after the election.  After receiving the totals from each county, the State Board of Canvassers will meet at 12:00 pm on November 23, 2020 to certify the results for statewide initiatives and other multi-county contests.  After the certification is complete, the governor will issue a proclamation declaring any initiative passed by a majority vote will be in full force and effect on the date described by Utah Code 20A-7-212(2) (refer to Step 16).  Note that an initiative does not need a majority of voters to approve the measure, but it needs a majority of votes cast in the election to pass.


Step 15: Final Fiscal Impact Statement (Utah Code 20A-7-214)

If an initiative is approved by the voters, LFA will prepare a final fiscal impact statement no later than January 2, 2021 and deliver it to the sponsors and the legislature.  If the final fiscal impact statement exceeds the initial fiscal impact estimate by 25% or more, the Legislature may (1) repeal the law, (2) amend the law, or (3) pass a joint or concurrent resolution informing the voters that they may file an initiative petition to repeal the law enacted by the passage of the initiative.


Step 16: Earliest Possible Effective Date (Utah Code 20A-7-212)

The earliest possible effective date of an initiative depends on whether the initiative increases taxes, decreases taxes, or does neither.  Initiatives that do not increase or decrease taxes have the earliest possible effective date of May 11, 2021. Refer to Utah Code 20A-7-212 to determine the earliest effective date for initiatives that increase or decrease taxes.

Initiatives may include a later effective date in the proposed law.


Last updated: May 23, 2019