Instructions for a Statewide Referendum

A statewide referendum is a publicly sponsored petition that submits a law passed by the legislature to the voters for their approval or rejection at the general election.  To place a statewide referendum on the general election ballot, sponsors of the referendum must complete the procedures listed below.

Please note that this information is not a substitute for Utah State Code, and it is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of law. If any inconsistency exists between this website and statute, the statutory language governs. Consult Utah State Code Title 20A Chapter 7 Part 3 for more information on a statewide referendum.

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.  For more information about PICs, consult Utah State Code Title 20A Chapter 11 Part 8 or refer to the PIC Quick Guide


Step 1: Determine if the Law is Subject to a Referendum (Utah Code 20A-7-102)

Laws passed by a two-thirds majority in both the Utah House and Utah Senate cannot be subject to a referendum.  However, all other laws passed by the Utah Legislature are subject to referendum.


Step 2:  Determine the Referendum’s Signature Requirement (Utah Code 20A-7-301)

Sponsors must obtain signatures from registered voters.  Click this link to view the signature requirements. The requirements are based on the number of active voters on January 1, 2019, and they will change every two years thereafter.


Step 3:  File an Application with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office (Utah Code 20A-7-302)

Sponsors must file an application with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office before 5:00 pm (Mountain Time) within five calendar days after the end of the legislative session at which the law passed.  The application may be filed at the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, by mail, or email. The application form may be obtained at this link, and it must include:

  • 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 certification indicating that each of the sponsors is a voter and has voted in a regular general election (i.e., even-year elections) 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 law that is the subject of the referendum.  Copies of legislation can be obtained on Utah Legislature’s website, le.utah.gov.


Step 4:  Compile and Print Petition Packets (Utah Code 20A-7-304)

After receiving the application, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office will prepare a petition packet template and provide it to the sponsors in approximately one to two business days.  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 law subject to the referendum;
  • One to fifty signature sheets (note: packets do not need to have a uniform number of signature sheets, but they may not exceed fifty); and
  • One circulator verification sheet.

Each packet must be bound across the top in at least three places using staples, stitches, 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 they are rearranged.  Refer to Utah Code 20A-7-303 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 5:  Obtain Signatures (Utah Code 20A-7-305)

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.

Petition Circulator Requirements

Individuals who circulate petitions may be volunteers, or they may be paid.  It is the responsibility of the sponsors to ensure that circulators:

  • are at least 18 years old and meet the residency requirements of Section 20A-2-105;
  • verify each signature sheet by completing the verification printed on the last page of each referendum packet;
  • are informed that each signer is required to read and understand the law that the referendum seeks to overturn; and
  • do not sign the verification printed on the last page of the referendum packet if they also signed a signature sheet in the referendum packet.

Registering Petition Signers to Vote

If an individual wishes to sign a referendum 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 registration form is processed by the appropriate county clerk before submitting the petition signature for verification.

Acceptable Locations for Circulation

Referendum law does not specify where circulators can or cannot circulate petition packets.  However, sponsors should consult appropriate ordinances or policies before circulating packets on public property.  They should also receive permission from property owners before circulating packets on private property.


Step 6: Submit Signatures for Verification (Utah Code 20A-7-306)

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.  

The sponsors must submit each petition packet before 5:00 pm no later than the earlier of:

  • 14 calendar days after the day on which the first individual signs the referendum packet; or
  • 40 calendar days after the end of the legislative session at which the law passed.

If these deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, it moves to the following business day.  Once a packet is submitted to the county clerk, the original document cannot be retrieved by the sponsors.


Step 7: Signature Verification and Removal (Utah Code 20A-7-305, 306, and 306.3

Within 14 calendar days after the day of receiving a petition packet, a county clerk will apply the standards outlined by Utah Code 20A-7-306.3 and 20A-7-306(3) to verify the signatures in the packet.  After verifying a petition signature, a county clerk will post the name 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 45 calendar days.

Removing Petition Signature

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-7-305(3) 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 referendum on this website.


Step 8:  Evaluation by the Lieutenant Governor (Utah Code 20A-7-307 and 301)

After the counties complete signature verification and no later than 95 calendar days after the end of the legislative session at which the law passed, the lieutenant governor will issue a declaration that states whether the petition is sufficient or insufficient and immediately notify the referendum sponsors. 

If the lieutenant governor declares the petition to be sufficient, the governor shall issue an executive order.  The executive order will either call a special election for the referendum or place the referendum on the next regular general election (even-year) ballot.  Additionally, the law subject to the referendum is placed “on hold,” and it will not take effect unless and until it is approved by the voters.


Step 9: Drafting the Ballot Title (Utah Code 20A-7-308)

After a referendum is declared sufficient, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office will assign a proposition number (e.g., Proposition #10) to the referendum, and the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel (OLRGC) will prepare a ballot title within 15 calendar days.  The ballot title is a 100 word statement that summarizes the contents of the referendum.


Step 10: Voter Information Pamphlet (Utah Code 20A-7-703, 705, and 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 referendum, including an impartial analysis prepared by OLRGC, text of the law subject to the referendum, and arguments for and against the referendum.  Click this link to view previous versions of the voter information pamphlet.

Initial Arguments

The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House will appoint legislators to write the PRO and CON arguments for the referendum.  Arguments cannot exceed 500 words, and they must be submitted to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office by June 8, 2020. If a legislator fails to submit an argument, voters may file a request to submit an argument with the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate.

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.

Revisions

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 11: Election and Certification of Results

Election Date (Utah Code 20A-7-301)

After the referendum petition is deemed sufficient by the lieutenant governor, the governor will issue an executive order that establishes the referendum’s election date.

Ballot Format (Utah Code 20A-7-309 and 310). 

The ballot will include the proposition number (e.g., Proposition #10), the ballot title, and the voting options of FOR or AGAINST.  Please note the following:

  • A vote FOR indicates that the voter is in favor of the law that is the subject of the referendum.  If a majority of voters vote FOR, the law will go into effect.
  • A vote AGAINST indicates that the voter is opposed to the law that is subject of the referendum.  If a majority of voters vote AGAINST, the law will not go into effect.

Step 12: Canvassing (Certification) of Results and Effective Date (Utah Code 20A-7-310 and 311)

Each county will canvass (certify) its vote totals 7-14 calendar days after the election.  A few weeks after receiving the totals from each county, the State Board of Canvassers will meet to cerity the results for multi-county contests and ballot propositions.  After the certification is complete, the governor will issue a proclamation declaring a law proposed by a referendum petition that was approved by a majority vote to be in full force and on the date described in Utah Code 20A-7-311.  Note that the law proposed by the referendum does not need a majority of voters to be approved, but it needs a majority of votes cast in the election to pass.