Here’s an overview of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of signature-gathering in Utah. Please don’t hesitate to send questions or comments via our comments page or via email to the chapter leader in your area:
- The SW Utah chapter (Julie Hancock, julie@CleanTheDarnAir.org) covers two Senate districts (#28 and #29; this map covers both) and has a target totaling 8,343 valid signatures.
- The Cache County chapter (Charles Ashurst, charles@CleanTheDarnAir.org) covers two Senate districts (#17 and #25; this map covers both) and has a target totaling 8,009 valid signatures.
- The Ogden area chapter (Tim Woodruff, tim@CleanTheDarnAir.org) covers three Senate districts (#18, #19, and #20; this map covers all three) and has a target totaling 10,828 valid signatures.
- The Salt Lake area chapter (Drew Fagerlin, drew@CleanTheDarnAir.org) covers fifteen Senate districts (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #21, #22, #23, and #26; see maps of the 3 districts north of SLC #21-23, the 11 central districts #1-6 and #8-12, and the Park City/Vernal district #26) and has a target totaling 60,897 valid signatures.
- The Utah County chapter (chapter leader needed!) covers five Senate districts (#7, #13, #14, #15, and #16; see this map zoomed on Utah Lake that covers #13-15 and this map of all five, with #15 unlabeled in the middle) and has a target totaling 20,084 valid signatures.
- The Moab / SE Utah chapter (chapter leader needed!) covers one Senate district (#27; see maps of the Moab area and the Price area, or the whole thing) and has a target of 3,950 valid signatures.
These six chapters cover 28 of the 29 state Senate districts; in order to qualify for the 2020 ballot we need to hit the listed signature targets in 26 of the 29 state Senate districts, plus gather about 5,000 more signatures anywhere in the state to hit the statewide target of 115,869 valid signatures. Here’s a way to see all the Senate districts (make sure to click on “State Senate”) or you can look them up by zip code or address. And BTW the only district not covered by any of the chapters above is #24 (see map here), which stretches roughly from Nephi to Kanab.
Who: You! (As long as you’re a Utah resident 18+ years old)
According to state law, signatures have to be signed in the presence of a signature-gatherer who:
- is 18+ years old;
- is a Utah resident, and preferably a registered voter in Utah for easy confirmation of residency;
- has signed the Petitioner’s Declaration on the last page of each petition packet; and
- has not signed their own name on a petition packet that they are circulating (other than on the Petitioner’s Declaration of course). So: Sign your own name on someone else’s petition packet!
What: Signature-gathering (and not most other things!)
Signature-gathering is like panning for gold, the gold in this case being the signatures we need to qualify for the ballot. That’s the gold we’re looking for, so keep your eyes on the prize and remember what signature-gathering is about and what it is not about:
- Signature-gathering is not about voter education. Voters will have forgotten your conversation by the time the election rolls around, and there will be plenty of time for voter education after we get on the ballot.
- Signature-gathering is not about the intricate details of the bill. If somebody wants the details of the bill, hand them a petition packet to read or point them toward the website: CleanTheDarnAir.org. All you need to say (even if you know all the intricate details!) is, “Sorry, I’m just a volunteer, and I’m here to collect signatures because I care about air quality and climate change.”
- Signature-gathering is definitely not about arguing about the bill. Getting in an argument will take up your time and sap your energy. As the old line goes about why you shouldn’t mud-wrestle with a pig, you’ll both get dirty and only the pig will like it.
Signature-gathering is really only about one thing: gathering signatures! And, as noted above, it’s like panning for gold. Every once in a while as you’re panning for gold you’ll find a diamond, i.e., someone who shares your passion and wants to volunteer for the campaign. (If that happens: Great! Point them toward the website or give them your contact information or otherwise make sure they can get in the loop.) But most of the time you’ll find a bunch of gravel—all the people who walk by pretending not to notice you, who tell you they’re not interested, etc.—and in the midst of that you’ll find gold nuggets sprinkled here and there. It’s really a numbers game: put the time in and don’t get distracted and you’ll hit your target!
When: The sooner the better!
There are three important timing issues to keep in mind:
- Each signature must be dated, and—according to state law—each petition packet must be turned in to the local county clerk no later than 30 days after the date of the first signature in that packet (e.g., July 31 for a packet with signatures starting July 1). Please coordinate with the campaign and please don’t cut it close because packets will be discarded (per 20A-7-206(1)(b)) if they’re turned in more than 30 days after the date of the first signature in that packet! (But if you do cut it close then keep in mind that you get until the next business day if the 30 days ends on a weekend or a holiday.)
- Early signatures are worth more than late signatures. There is a rolling window process for validating and confirming signatures, and to complicate matters that process changes somewhat after December 1, but the bottom line for the summer and fall is that signatures will be validated (matched with a registered voter who hasn’t signed a previous petition packet) 30 after they’re submitted and locked in (meaning that the voter can no longer request to have their name removed from the petition) 90 days after they’re validated. So: signatures submitted by the end of June will be validated by the end of July and locked in by the end of October; similarly, signatures submitted by the end of July/Aug/Sept will be validated by the end of Aug/Sept/Oct and locked in by the end of Nov/Dec/Jan. All that is great—and the earlier the better—because we will have a running total of where we stand before the final signature submission deadline of Feb 18, 2020. Signatures submitted in October or later are still good, but they don’t give us as solid of a sense of the running total of where we stand, and by that point we’ll be courting a Count My Vote-style disaster because the deadline for signatures to be locked in will be near or even after the final signature submission deadline of Feb 18, 2020. In short: early signatures are worth more than late signatures!
- The final date to submit signatures is Tuesday, February 18, 2020. (That’s the first business day after the February 15 deadline specified in state law.)
Where: Public places (and of course friends and family)
You’re encouraged to bring a petition packet with you wherever you go—you never know who you’ll run into!—but here are three good rules for where to gather signatures from the general public:
- The ideal place for public signature-gathering is a park or sidewalk location with lots of folks standing around waiting: in a line to get into a movie or a concert or a stadium, people hanging out at a park or dog park, waiting for a parade to start, etc. Instead of interrupting them, you will be doing them a favor by giving them something to do to pass the time (other than look at their phones :)
- You can try to gather signatures just about anywhere as long as you’re standing in a publicly-owned public place: on a sidewalk, in a park, on the campus of a state-run university, at a county courthouse, by the DMV, etc. (See below for special rules about state liquor stores.) If you’re not sure, a good rule of thumb is to think about somebody playing the guitar or panhandling: if they’re allowed to be there then so are you!
- If you come from the school of better-to-ask-for-forgiveness-rather-than-ask-for-permission, you can try to gather signatures anywhere, but you may be asked to leave if you’re on commercial property: in a mall, for example, or near the entrance to a post office or grocery store that has its own parking lot. (This category also includes places like fairgrounds or Trax/Frontrunner platforms that require ID or payment.) You’re basically on your own here, but the best advice we can offer is to be friendly and be careful: if someone asks you to leave—even if you think you’re legally allowed to be there—then be friendly and comply, and of course come ask the campaign if you have any questions.
- There are special rules about state liquor stores. As at other publicly-owned public places, you are allowed to collect signatures, but formally you need to go through a rather cumbersome process to get a permit. Please coordinate with the campaign about this, but our suggestion is that we get the permit the first few times around, introduce ourselves to the store staff, follow their instructions, and be friendly. We may need to continue getting permits throughout the campaign, or if we demonstrate that we’re nice and not ruining anybody’s shopping experience then we may be able to gather signatures there even without a specific permit, or with just one permit a week. (Without a specific permit we’re back in category #3 above though, so be friendly and be careful!)
Why: To qualify our measure for the ballot
This is a good moment to stop and reiterate our goal. It’s not debating, or arguing, or even educating; it’s getting the signatures we need to qualify for the ballot!
How: Tried and true suggestions for public signature gathering
These suggestions—they are just suggestions, you do as you see fit!—mostly come directly or indirectly from the world’s expert at volunteer signature-gathering campaigns, Katherine Bragdon of Active Roots Consulting. (Any shortcomings are of course our own.)
- Watch this 10 minute video. It’s Katherine Bragdon doing a training for a different campaign, in a different state, so the details aren’t always relevant… but the big picture is the same!
- Pick good times and locations. You can try gathering signatures anywhere and anytime, but we’ll be posting lists of events that should be especially promising. (Basically, events with lots of folks in a public place, like 4th of July Parades or liquor stores on weekday evenings and on Saturdays.)
- Use your signboard as a shield and as an advertisement. Especially if you’re shy, your signboard (which we will provide you with, it’s 2 x 3 feet and looks like this) pretty much says it all. It’s your opening line, it tells people what you’re there for, and it’s a barrier that you can use if you encounter any grumps.
- Engage, engage, engage. Very few people want to take 30 seconds to interact with a stranger with a clipboard, so if you’re passive and give them an easy out then they’ll take it. You have to be active and put yourself out there. All you need to do make eye contact, smile, and ask your “pick-up line”.
- Two simple pick-up lines are “Have you signed yet?” and “Are you a registered voter here in Utah?” The signboard tells them the “what”, so all you need to do is be friendly and engage. These two questions are ones you should definitively ask at some point, but if you want to try a different pick-up line then go ahead!
- Carry two or three petition packets. The best time to get someone to sign is when someone else is already signing. Take advantage of that time to show your signboard to others and encourage them to sign as well.
- Aim for 20-25 signatures per hour. That’s a reasonable target, so if you’re falling short of that target then please contact the campaign so we can talk about it… and if you’re exceeding that target then please tell us your secrets! PS. If you can gather 25 signatures per hour, you’ve only got to put in 10 hours (5 2-hour shifts) to join the 250 Club of folks who have gathered 25o signatures!
- Bring water and snacks and sunscreen. More generally, take care of yourself while you’re out gathering!
- Try to have fun. If you’re going to be in the 250 Club (folks who have gathered 25o signatures), you’ve got to find a way to make this sustainable. As Katherine Bragdon says, you should treat signature gathering like a fascinating sociological experiment. Share your stories with other volunteers and with the campaign, and know that you’re doing important work!
- Lower your expectations. Think about your own experiences when you’ve been asked to sign ballot measure petitions (or postcards to “protect public lands”, etc). You probably don’t remember all that much, and most of the time you were probably too busy to pay any attention at all. Now you’re on the other side of the clipboard, but the dynamics of the interaction are the same: Most people are just going to walk right past you, and that’s okay! You’re panning for gold, so don’t let the gravel get you down!
And of course feedback is always welcome, about this post, about the campaign, about your experience, etc.