Backers of the Count My Vote initiative that Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox ruled failed to qualify for the November ballot asked the Utah Supreme Court Friday to throw out a provision in the law allowing for voter signatures to be removed.
The petition spells out that if the provision is either declared unconstitutional or determined not to have been followed correctly, the Count My Vote initiative should be on the ballot.
Nearly 3,000 people had their names removed from the initiative, intended to maintain the current candidate nomination process that offers an alternative to the traditional political party caucus and convention system.
As a result, the initiative fell short of the required signatures in three state Senate districts where the required threshold had been exceeded, according to the lieutenant governor's office, which oversees elections.
The lieutenant governor's chief of staff, Kirsten Rappleye, had little to say about the legal action taken just before Friday's deadline by former Gov. Mike Leavitt and Count My Vote Executive Chairman Rich McKeown in the Utah Supreme Court.
"It's our policy not to comment on ongoing litigation, however, the attorney general's office has received the filing and will be reviewing it in the coming days," Rappleye said in a statement.
The petition from the Count My Vote leaders, who had previously said they intended to challenge Cox's decision to keep the initiative off the ballot, argues that the signature removal process "stacks the deck" in favor of an initiative's opponents.
The "relative ease" by which an opposition group can remove signatures, especially considering the difficulty of obtaining valid signatures, "imposes an undue burden on the people's constitutional right to initiative legislation," the petition states.
It says voter names and other identifying information submitted to qualify for the ballot serve as a "treasure map" for opponents who can "prevent an initiative from reaching the ballot by aggressively targeting signers" in key districts.
Adding to the unfairness, according to the petition, are requirements on initiative supporters, including holding public hearings before gathering signatures and filing campaign finance reports, that are not imposed on opponents.
Although a prior version of the signature removal process has been upheld by the courts, the petition notes that was before a legislative revision in 2010 eliminated a requirement that the requests be notarized.
The petition says the signature removal requests should have been personally submitted by the voters who signed the initiative, rather than by Count My Vote opponents.
The suit was filed against Cox and the Davis, Utah and Washington county clerks.