Curtis Haring of Fair Boundaries-- which failed to gather enough signatures for an anti- gerrymandering ballot initiative--is using fighting words on his blog today, calling Utah's ballot initiative process "unconstitutional" because it's "too difficult." ---
Citing Article 1, Section 2, of the Utah Constitution, Haring writes that "all political power is inherent in the people." From that, he a Constitutional protection of a fair and not-overly-difficult way for citizens to directly impact law without involving elected leaders. As I've written before, this power is particularly important when the law citizens seek limits various powers and privileges of those lawmakers, who are loath to limit their own power.
Now, Fair Boundaries was extremity popular. In fact the Deseret News reported that two out of every three people supported the [initiative] and its goals, yet it still failed to reach its legal goal – why?
The laws in this state make it too difficult for people to petition their government and are, therefore, de facto unconstitutional.
The Deseret News editorial board agrees with Haring.
Utahns for Ethical Government also failed to get on the 2010 ballot, but is going to try again for 2012.
One must gather signatures from 10 percent of voters in 26 out of 29 counties; that's roughly 95,000 people spread out over every corner of this vast landscape we call Utah. Even then, if you gather that many signatures, the Legislature changed the rules this last session and now there's a 30-day "remove your name" period where signors can take their name off the petition, but organizers can not solicit new names to replace those that they lose.
We certainly don't want the rules to be too easy, though, otherwise we end up with a California situation where a dozen or more initiatives are approved for just about every ballot. When that happens, chicanery becomes rampant (I'm looking at you PG&E). But there's got to be a happier medium than what Utah has now, right?
Let us count our blessings: The right to initiative is recognized by only 24 states. Getting an initiative on the ballot here might be a long shot, but at least there is a shot--kinda, sorta, almost, maybe.