In brief: We learned a lot in our effort to make the Nov 2020 ballot, but we didn’t get enough signatures to qualify, so we are now regrouping with a new target of Nov 2024. With Earth Day coming up on April 22, our plan is to relaunch the campaign by Earth Day 2021; have updated ballot language, new board members, and a detailed campaign plan by Earth Day 2022; and be in the thick of collecting signatures by Earth Day 2023!
In length: We filed a ballot measure in spring 2019 and gathered signatures from July – Oct 2019. We needed about 120,000 signatures and we gathered 30,000 signatures, which was not bad for an all-volunteer effort but also not enough to make the ballot. We are now aiming for the Nov 2024 ballot, with lessons learned and a general timeline as follows:
- We learned that an all-volunteer effort is possible. We fell short of our signature target but we did quite well given a late start and a group of volunteers. With more volunteers and more time we can do it!
- We learned that our best volunteers were able to gather 1,000+ signatures per month in the SLC area. The key was to focus on outdoor gatherings (especially lines of people waiting to get into ballgames, concerts, farmers markets, or other events) and circulate multiple petition clipboards in order to hit a target of 40+ signatures per hour. Putting in 10 hours a week at that rate produces 400 signatures per week or well over 1,000 signatures per month.
- We learned that signature-gathering was more difficult but still possible outside of the SLC area. Again, the key was to focus on outdoor gatherings. In and around college campuses were also good places to gather signatures.
- We learned that state and county elections officials will regularly release updated tallies of how many valid signatures we’ve gathered in different senate districts. This is important because making the ballot requires hitting not only a statewide signature target but also similar targets in 26 of the 29 state senate districts. Having regular tallies means that we’ll know where we’re doing well and where we need to do more.
- We learned that we would have done better with more time and that for 2024 we can get twice as much time. In 2019 we got a delayed start, in early July, and so we had 4 months to gather signatures before the weather got dark and cold; for 2024 we will be able to start earlier and get a window of about 8 months.
- We learned that we need more volunteers. That’s especially true because the number of signatures we will need will almost certainly go up based on updated “active voter” numbers. (We expect the state to update their signature-gathering guide sometime in 2021 or early 2022.) A reasonable target for 2024 is 150,000 signatures to account both for an increase from the previous 120,000 target and for signatures that are invalid (duplicate, illegible, etc.). Hitting that target means a pyramid of 10 people gathering 5,000 signatures plus 50 people gathering 1,000 signatures plus 200 people gathering 250 signatures.
- We will learn more in late 2021 about the necessary signature targets because that’s when redistricting should be complete. In any case, the current rules are that all signatures for a Nov 2024 ballot measure must be turned in by mid-February of 2024 and must also be turned in no later than 316 days after the measure is filed. Taking into consideration the weather and the fact that it takes 6-8 weeks for set-up time (getting a fiscal note, holding public hearings, and printing petition packets), the best window for Nov 2024 would seem to be to file in early 2023 (e.g., Jan 15), start gathering signatures in spring 2023 (e.g., March 15), and finish collecting signatures in late fall 2023 (e.g., Nov 27).