Ballot initiatives: Medical marijuana, redistricting, Medicaid expansion are good to go; election reform fails

Legs and shoes on asphalt with the word "vote," date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Delpixart via iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An initiative to reform Utah’s nominating system failed to make the ballot after opponents convinced nearly 3,000 people to withdraw their name from a petition in support of the measure, election officials said Tuesday.

Initiatives on medical marijuana, redistricting and Medicaid expansion did make the ballot, officials announced, making them the first to be decided by Utah voters in 14 years.

Photo by phototechno/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Tuesday’s result is a victory for defenders of the current political system, but will also heighten questions about the ability to block initiatives from reaching voters. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has spoken out against urging voters to withdraw names from petitions they’ve already signed and said last week the system ought to be rethought.

The failure keeps intact a dual-track process allowing Utah politicians to reach their party’s primary through one of two routes: either win the support of local delegates at a state convention or gather a certain number of signatures from voters. Critics say it gives too much power to ideologically rigid party insiders, but defenders argue it puts candidates on a level playing field no matter their campaign budget.

In deep red Utah, the stakes are large. In much of the state, a Republican nominee is a virtual shoo-in for office, so the battle over the party’s nomination can be vastly more important than the general election.

This year, the Count My Vote campaign pushed for changes to lower the number of signatures needed to reach the primary without going to convention, theoretically making that route more attractive. Opponents called it a slow but steady attempt to kill off the convention system.

In early May, they appeared to be a lock for the ballot by hitting certain thresholds statewide and in at least 26 of Utah’s 29 Senate districts, according to preliminary data from the state election office.

But then opponents sprung in action. Campaigners with the anti-initiative Keep My Vote campaign went door-to-door asking those same voters to withdraw their signatures.

Keep My Vote Director Brandon Beckham said many voters had been misled into signing the petition and didn’t stand by it.

“It wasn’t really hard to tell them the truth,” he said. “Quite frankly, I was surprised at the high success rate we had.”

In the end, the initiative met thresholds in only 23 of 29 Senate districts.

Count My Vote Executive Co-chair Rich McKeown said his group would soon be filing a lawsuit against the state over additional signatures he thinks should have counted.

“We are persuaded that there are thousands, literally, of signatures that should have been validated but have not been,” he said. “What we’re saying is that human beings did it. Human beings potentially made errors.”

Keep My Voice sued Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox last week, accusing him of bias and failing to perform election duties. That case will continue despite his office’s certification, Beckham said.

Opponents of the medical marijuana initiative had also encouraged voters to withdraw their names from a petition to put it on the ballot.

More than 1,400 did so, but that wasn’t enough to halt it from securing a spot on the ballot.

Still, that initiative is also headed to court. Opponents have claimed it violates the state’s constitution and, since marijuana remains outlawed at the federal level, would force state employees to aid and abet criminal behavior.

Written by JULIAN HATTEM, Associated Press

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Jmfixitman May 29, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Disgusting. No matter what the initiative is, citizens deserve the right to be able to vote on the topic at hand. Then we have an accurate account of the voice of the people.

  • tcrider May 30, 2018 at 7:48 am

    Its really not a democracy when a petition can be reversed, that is the purpose of the petition in the first place.
    I would wager that many or some of the reversal signatures are not real or fake.
    This is what happens when you do not have a separation of church and state.

    • RadRabbit May 30, 2018 at 2:41 pm

      We’re not a democracy we’re a representative republic.

  • Not_So_Much May 30, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Count My Vote has been and is out to destroy the caucus/convention method the GOP has used for many years. The caucus system is much like our representative republic, where those with similar views and who will commit to vetting what can be a large field of potential for the party nominee come together. The caucus system is open to anyone registered as a Republican, so that your vote CAN count.
    As for removing signatures from an initiative which many, such as the Governor, opposes is a necessity at this time. People were misled into signing for something they, in fact, did not support. In some instances people were unaware that their name WAS on a petition that destroys the caucus system. I know this from my own experiences of contacting people. If the collection system couldn’t be rigged with false signatures collected by people paid for each signature they could collect (some carrying three separate issues) then removal of names could be eliminated. You can find more information at and then help end SB 54
    We have a superior system with caucus/convention and there is a battle going on to keep it. It’s a battle that must be won to preserve what we have and not go down the road big money supports and ‘because that’s what other states do’. Please become informed on the issue and then if you want to improve the caucus/convention system join in, you’ll be welcomed and listened to.

  • PlanetU May 30, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    sheep…baa…baa….follow your leader.

  • jaybird May 30, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    Vote yes on medical marijuana.

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