The Problem with Petitions and Ballot Initiatives


As citizens who are a part of a republic which is a representative form of government, we should be very, very careful before we sign any petition or initiative and read each initiative thoroughly. An initiative/petition for signatures is sponsored by a group of people who want to have a specific issue voted on by the general public and have the majority decide what is best. The petition has to have specific language outlining what the sponsor group wants to be “The Law”. Once a petition is authorized by the Lieutenant Governor’s office and then adopted by the majority vote, it is EXTREMELY difficult to change or alter the language in the petition. The State Legislature will not want to alter the petition because it goes against what the people voted for and so they are very reticent to alter any part of the petition, even if it may be detrimental to the people. The petition process counts on the under informed voter, because they know that not many people will actually read the language of the petition and will rely soley on the name or the sound bites provided. 

A petition alters current State law or even the Utah State Constitution. This can be very dangerous. Our current form of government provides for the people to elect representatives or legislators and senators to represent us in forming our laws. The petition process by-passes our elected representatives and the law-making process and causes us to become a democracy. 

With the current law-making process, a proposed bill starts in a committee and the committee reviews the bill, takes public comment and uses legal counsel to determine what parts of the bill are appropriate. Interested parties are allowed to read the bill on-line and provide proposed changes and feedback. Once the bill is on the floor of the Utah House or Senate there is additional scrutiny done by all of the representatives and the bill is read multiple times in order to allow everyone the opportunity to vet the bill. 

A Petition does not go through the same rigorous process. This is why, “We The People”, need to be very, very cautious about every petition and read them before we sign them even though they may sound like a great idea. 

A group of concerned citizens and I have read each of the ballot initiatives and have compiled a list of the possible problems and issues. I have included all of the Websites for the initiatives, however, please take the time to read the actual initiatives and not just the marketing information provided by each group or Web Site.