Details on Pending Referendum Petition Process

Details on Pending Referendum Petition Process
Posted on 04/02/2019

On Feb. 19, the City Council enacted Ordinance 317-A entitled “An Ordinance Enacting the PDD-1 (Walsh) Zoning Ordinance; Re-Zoning 5.9 Acres of Realty at 6784 South 1300 East to PDD-1 (Walsh); and Amending the Zoning Map.” On Feb. 22, 14 residents filed with the city an “Application for Referendum.”

Utah’s Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman explains that a “referendum is a direct vote to repeal a law or ordinance that has been enacted by a legislative body. If enough voters sign a petition, a legislative act may be placed on a ballot, and the public will have an opportunity to repeal the legislation. If the referendum passes, the law is repealed and does not take effect.”

The process for local referenda is controlled by Utah state law detailed in Utah Code Ann. 20A-7-601 et seq. An application for the referendum must be filed by its “sponsors” within five days after enactment of the law in question. If the application is determined to be legally compliant by the governmental entity (here, the city), then within five days the city must provide to the sponsors five copies of the form of the referendum petition (consisting of the petition, voter signature page, and a “verification” page to be completed by the person who oversaw the signatures).

The sponsors then may copy the papers and assemble them into bound packets, each containing the petition, up to 50 signature pages and a verification page. The packets then are delivered to the City Recorder for numbering and return to the sponsors within five business days. At that point, the sponsors may begin circulating the petitions for signature accompanied by a complete copy of the law that is the subject of the referendum. Here, all of those steps have been completed and the sponsors are entitled to seek signatures of the city’s registered voters who desire to vote on Ordinance 317-A.

A valid petition must bear the signatures of registered voters residing in the city which equal at least 35 percent of the votes cast in the city for candidates in the last presidential election. According to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office, there were 17,653 such votes cast in last presidential election; 35 percent of that number is 6,179.

Another legal requirement is for the city’s budget officer and attorney to formulate an “unbiased, good faith estimate of the fiscal and legal impact of repealing the law the referendum proposes to repeal” containing certain specified information. That estimate was completed on March 19.

State law provides that the sponsors have 45 calendar days after their initial receipt of the petitioning forms to gather the necessary signatures and deliver the signed and verified referendum packets to the Salt Lake County Clerk. That deadline is April 15. The County Clerk then will have 30 days to (a) verify that all the signers are Utah residents, at least 18 years old, and registered voters residing in the city, and (b) deliver the verified referendum packets to the City Recorder.

After receipt of the verified referendum packets from the County Clerk, the City Recorder will have 15 days to determine whether adequate certified signatures were obtained and to notify the sponsors of the finding. A recount then may be requested by the sponsors, with a right to petition the Supreme Court if there is a dispute.

Assuming successful completion of all of those steps, the ballot proposition then is entitled and placed on the ballot. If the pending referendum petition is successfully completed, the issue of whether or not to repeal Ordinance 317-A will be on city’s Nov. 5, 2019, ballot.