The short version
Qualifying for the Nov 2024 ballot means collecting signatures from F Feb 17 – W Nov 22 2023. We need to gather 135,000 signatures statewide, which is 8% of active voters, plus we need to hit that same 8% target in 26 of the 29 state senate districts. (The numerical targets are listed in this download.)
The long version (very long)
The relevant part of the Utah legislative code is 20A-7 Part 2; here’s a PDF of the whole thing. Note that, per 20A-1-201, “regular general elections”—which turn out to be the focal point of statewide ballot measures—are held in even-numbered years. The signature targets for Nov 2024 will be updated at some point after Jan 1, 2023.
1. When to file? For the 2024 ballot, the best path (plus or minus a few weeks) is to file on T Jan 10 2023 and collect signatures from F Feb 17 – W Nov 22 2023.
Gory details: Per 20A-7-206, signatures have to be turned in no later than “316 days after the day on which the application for the initiative petition is filed.” Since there’s a process that takes a minimum of about 6 weeks between filing the application and the beginning of signature gathering (see details in the next section), the maximum window for gathering signatures is about 275 days. That same statute provides a fair amount of flexibility regarding the timing of that 275-day window. It says that signatures have to be turned in no later than “the February 15 immediately before the next regular general election immediately after the application is filed.” So for measures targeting the Nov 2024 ballot the application needs to be submitted no earlier than Feb 15 2022—any earlier and the measure aims for the Nov 2022 ballot—and should be submitted no later than April 5 2023, which is 316 days before Feb 15 2024. Considering three things—the weather; Daylight Savings Time, which runs for 238 days from March 12 – Nov 4 2023; and Thanksgiving, which is on Th Nov 23, 2023, and the run-up to which is a great time to collect signatures at liquor stores—we think the best option is to file in on T Jan 10 2023 and collect signatures from about F Feb 17 – W Nov 22 2023. (Note that the legislative session starts on the 4th Monday in January, e.g., M Jan 23 2023, and ends 46 calendar days later: 45 days not including Presidents’ Day, so that’s F March 10 2023.)
2. What’s the process from filing to the start of signature gathering? It takes about 6 weeks. If we file on T Jan 10 2023, the Lt Gov has 3 working days (until F Jan 13) to send the proposed law to LFA, which then has 25 calendar days from the following day (i.e., until W Feb 8) to complete a fiscal estimate. If we hold hearings that week and submit recordings by M Feb 13, the Lt Gov can provide us with a sample petition packet by about Th Feb 16, and we can then (a) immediately print and number a small batch of petitions so that we can gather during the NBA All-Star Weekend in SLC Feb 17-19, and (b) order a much larger batch of petitions and then number them, for use gathering signatures beginning about M Feb 27.
Gory details: Per 20A-7-202, the proposed law is filed with the Lt Gov’s office along with 5 notarized signatures and various other statements. The Lt Gov can reject the petition (note especially that it can be rejected if “the law proposed by the initiative is identical or substantially similar to a law proposed by an initiative for which signatures were submitted to the county clerks and lieutenant governor for certification within two years preceding the date on which the application for the new initiative is filed”) but let’s assume that it gets the green light.
Next: Per 20A-7-202.5, the Lt Gov has 3 working days to send the proposed law to the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst, and then LFA has 25 calendar days after the following day to complete a fiscal estimate. LFA then provides the fiscal estimate to the Lt Gov’s office, which emails it to us on that same day. At that point we have an option of revising the measure, which would trigger an additional delay of at least 3 working days plus 25 calendar days. But let’s assume that no revision is necessary. Example: If we file on T Jan 10 2023 then the Lt Gov has until F Jan 13 to send the law to LFA, and then LFA has until W Feb 8 to complete the fiscal estimate. Note that LFA actually took a few days longer than 25 calendar days with our measure in 2019; there appears to be no recourse here other than waiting.
Next: Per 20A-7-204.1, we then have to hold and record 7 public hearings on the measure no earlier than the day after the fiscal estimate is released. There are a lot of public notice steps to take before these hearings (for example, publishing notice in a “newspaper of general circulation” in each county) and they’ve gotten more onerous than in the past, so lots of attention needs to be paid to these public notice steps, but acting early enough on these should prevent a delay in the hearings.
Finally: After we submit recordings of the public hearings, the Lt Gov’s office will provide us with a sample petition packet per 20A-7-204(2). That will take a few days, and then printing petitions will take about a week. Then we can number the petitions following the instructions of the Lt Gov’s office per 20A-7-204(5).
3. What’s the process for gathering and validating signatures?
Per 20A-7-206, each signature packet has to be turned in no later than 30 days after the date of the first signature, e.g., May 31 for a packet started May 1, or July 1 for a packet started June 1. If the 30 days ends on a weekend or holiday then you have until the next business day.
That same section says that county clerks have 21 days after submission of a packet to validate the signatures in that packet. (Our experience is that they often do this faster.) Then 20A-7-205 says that the signer has 90 days after that to petition to have their name removed. After this roughly 120-day window the signatures will be “locked in”. Example: signatures submitted by the end of June must be validated by the end of July, and for signatures validated by the end of July the voter has until the end of October to remove their signature.
If we gather 20,000 signatures in each of April, May, June, July, August, September, and October then we’ll have a total of 140,000 signatures.
Comparison with 2019 effort: We tried to get a similar measure on the Nov 2020 ballot but the 30,000 signatures we got fell short of what we needed. In 2019 we started gathering signatures in early July, so we missed 3-4 key signature-gathering months: April, May, and June (and arguably March as well).