Utah Legislature approves candidate signature gathering change

Feb 16, 2024, 6:55 PM | Updated: Feb 20, 2024, 7:41 am

significant shift is coming for candidates who have to gather signatures to get on the ballot -- a ...

significant shift is coming for candidates who have to gather signatures to get on the ballot -- a state-approved app allowing them to verify a voter's eligibility in real-time. (KSL TV)


SALT LAKE CITY — A shift could be coming for candidates who have to gather signatures to get on the ballot — a state-approved app allowing them to verify a voter’s eligibility in real time.

Right now, signatures are largely gathered via paper packets and submitted to the Lt. Governor’s office, which checks the registration requirements of each signer. Only signatures that meet those requirements count towards a candidate’s total number.

On Friday, the Utah Legislature passed SB107, the Election Process Amendments. The bill’s main components move the filing deadline date for independent candidates from early January to June 15.

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The bill also repeals a requirement that signature collectors had to be residents of Utah. By doing that, supporters of the signature path to the ballot say it allows an app developed by the Lt. Governor’s office to be more widely used.

State law allows candidates to choose whether they gather signatures manually or electronically. However, using the app is rare. Supporters of the signature path hope this bill changes that.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, said that wasn’t the purpose of this bill.

How the app would work

The state elections office manages the app.

Since voters are only allowed to sign for one candidate in a race, the app scans your driver’s license to determine whether you are eligible to sign a petitioner’s packet. This would apply to candidates, initiatives, and referendums, each requiring signatures.

“(The app) uses state-issued IDs like your driver’s licenses or other official state-issued IDs, and it ties that into the voter registration database in real-time so that those collecting signatures, whether it’s candidates themselves or their volunteers, they can in real-time determine a voter’s eligibility to sign that petition,” said Taylor Morgan, executive director of Count My Vote.

Count My Vote is the group that ushered in the change to Utah’s laws around ballot access 10 years ago when they successfully negotiated the option for candidates to do the signature-gathering path, the caucus convention path, or both — known in political circles as the SB54 compromise.

Morgan argues the app will make the signature-gathering path more accessible.

“It’s something that has been in the works for a couple of years now, but the technology has not yet been available and ready for the public to secure the validity of those signatures,” he said.

Securing data

Of course, data privacy is always a concern. But Morgan said the app is tapping into data that the state already has on file.

“The data that’s being pulled is the state election voter database and also the Department of Motor Vehicles database. If you use, for example, your driver’s license. So this is already data and information that the state has that the state controls and protects very closely. And that’s one of the key features of this app, is that we’re using the very best protocols and safety measures that are currently in place to secure statewide data,” Morgan said.

Caucus convention path supports have historically been cautious of technology in election processes. Morgan argues the app makes the process of gathering signatures more secure.

“It ensures by using that ID issued by the state, it ensures that voters are who they say they are, and it helps the voters know, frankly, for whom they’re eligible to sign up statewide,” Morgan said.

He wants voters to know that they can trust this new process.

“We want voters to know that that’s coming to expect it and to know that showing your ID is part of the new secure process,” he said.

The bill also takes effect as soon as the governor signs it, so candidates, initiatives, and referendum gatherers can use it immediately.

However, for the candidates who’ve already started gathering for their 2024 campaigns, it’s too late for them to use the approved app since they’ve already selected that they’ll gather manually.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article said that this bill allowed the app to be the state’s official method of electronic gathering. While the app would be the only state-approved electronic method for gathering, it has been updated to more accurately reflect that the bill’s residency provision allows for the app to be more widely used.

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Utah Legislature approves candidate signature gathering change