Effort to send new Utah flag to statewide referendum fails, state says

Apr 13, 2023, 5:29 PM | Updated: Apr 14, 2023, 6:39 am

Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, sponsor of SB31, State Flag Amendments, poses for a photo with the n...

Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, sponsor of SB31, State Flag Amendments, poses for a photo with the new Utah state flag at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 2, 2023. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that creates a new Utah state flag won’t go to a future election.

The Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office confirmed to KSL.com on Thursday that a referendum measure on SB31 received 21,030 validated signatures and 28,449 more signatures to be reviewed by 5 p.m. Wednesday, well shy of the 134,298 signatures from registered voters needed to send any bill to a future ballot. Another 2,117 signatures were rejected.

While Wednesday was the deadline for signatures, county clerks had until noon Thursday to report all signatures they had received. Had the measure received enough signatures, there would be a three-week process to authenticate the numbers of registered voters and other requirements were met, such as a certain percentage of voters from different counties.

A group of residents called Referendum to Save Utah’s Flag filed the paperwork to hold a referendum on SB31 in March, days after the Utah Legislature narrowly passed the bill. If it was successful, voters would have decided the fate of SB31, which designates a new state flag and designates the current flag as the state’s “historical flag.”

The update comes about a week after a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found that about 48% of Utahns said they either strongly supported or somewhat supported the new flag design, compared to 35% who strongly or somewhat opposed it.

Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, who sponsored SB31 and championed the effort for a new state flag, told Deseret News he was thrilled with those polling numbers.

“Flags are important, and people don’t realize how important they are when their flag isn’t one that they wear on a T-shirt or fly at their home,” he said last week. “I’m seeing it as I drive down the road. There are already stores popping up with people selling things that have the new state emblem on it.”

Despite the referendum failing, some changes to SB31 are still expected before the bill goes into effect on March 9, 2024.

While the group continued to collect signatures on the referendum, Cox formally signed the bill and issued an executive order calling for the historic flag to be flown at the state Capitol at all times and at all state buildings during all state holidays and any “special occasions.”

He also called on the Utah Legislature to amend state law so that the historic flag flies over the new design in times when both flags are flying on the same pole. That change is expected to be made before the flag flies for the first time.

The flag design was only tweaked once during the legislative session after it was first selected by Utah leaders in November. McCay introduced a design that turned the eight-sided star into a five-sided one before it was approved by the Utah Senate in January.

The design was selected after the Utah State Flag Task Force narrowed the field of 5,703 submissions collected in 2022. Utah leaders honored 70 people earlier this year who helped inspire the design.

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Effort to send new Utah flag to statewide referendum fails, state says