Undertake an Initiative Campaign
Constitutional and Statutory Provisions
Historical Information (Elections Office)
Utah was the second state to win statewide
initiative and referendum, passing its amendment through the legislature in 1899
and ratifying it by popular vote in 1900. The man most responsible for this
early victory was State Representative Sherman S. Smith of Ogden, the
legislature's "lone Populist." But another I&R advocate, Henry W. Lawrence of
Salt Lake City, wondered whether the legislature would pass reasonable
implementing legislation: "The great trouble now will be to get the Legislature
to adopt legislation to...make it [I&R] effective, as our Legislature will be
Republican and no doubt generally opposed to the principle."
Lawrence's concern was on target. Sixteen years
later, I&R advocates were still waiting for the legislature to pass an
implementing law. Finally, in 1916, they organized the Popular Government League
of Utah to lobby for such a law. Its officers were Parley P. Christensen,
president; Dr. Grace Stratton-Airey, vice president; and Parker B. Cady,
The legislature reluctantly passed an implementing
bill, but it was worthless: among other restrictions, it specified that anyone
signing a petition to put an initiative on the ballot had to sign "in the office
and in the presence of an officer competent to administer oaths." The reformers
were outraged. The law effectively prohibited initiative sponsors from
circulating petitions. After World War II, the restrictions finally were eased,
but it was still not easy to put an initiative on the ballot.
In 1960, Utah voters approved a statewide initiative
for the first time. It established a merit system procedure for hiring and
employing county deputy sheriffs, thus ending the corrupting patronage system.
Over the years, the animal protection movement was
very active in Utah – putting fear in the hearts of hunters. Out of fear of how
the animal protection groups would use the initiative process, pro-hunting
groups began a crusade against the initiative process. In 2000 they were
successful in convincing the state legislature to drastically curb the
initiative process by increasing the distribution requirements for initiatives
and also requiring that animal protection initiatives must pass by a two-thirds
vote of the people.
David Schmidt, Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot Initiative Revolution
(Temple University Press, 1989).