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ACLU of Utah Claims LaVerkin Referendum Petition is Insufficient

05 March 2002 Published in Legal Advocacy

ACLU of Utah Claims LaVerkin Referendum Petition is Insufficient.

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ACLU of Utah Writes LaVerkin City Recorder About Insufficient Referendum Petition


Debi Groves
City Recorder
111 South Main Street
LaVerkin, Utah 84745

March 5, 2002

Re: Referendum Petition Ordering Ordinance 2002-01 Be Referred to Voters

Dear Ms. Groves,

We are writing to inform you of our belief that the referendum petition concerning LaVerkin City Ordinance 2002-01, An Ordinance Repealing LaVerkin City Ordinances 2001-09 and 2001-11, Also the United Nations-Free Zone Ordinance, is insufficient because it was compiled in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 20A-7-603. Section 20A-7-603(1)(b) says the “sponsors of a referendum shall attach a copy of the law that is the subject of the referendum to each referendum petition.” In order to make the resulting referendum petition sufficient, this requirement must be “substantially followed.” Utah Code Ann. § 20A-7-603(3).

Although Utah courts have not yet decided the issue, other jurisdictions have held substantial compliance requires the complete text of the targeted law to be attached to the referendum petition. For example, in Nelson v. Carlson, 21 Cal.Rptr.2d 485 (Cal. App. 4 Dist. 1993), the Court declared a referendum petition invalid because the text of the targeted plan was not attached to the petition. The Court reasoned, “Substantial compliance . . . means actual compliance in respect to the substance essential to every reasonable objective of the statute.” Id. at 488 (citation omitted) (emphasis in original). Since potential signers could not “informatively evaluate whether they should sign the referendum petition” without seeing the plan, failing to include the text of the plan resulted in noncompliance. Id. See also Capezzuto v. State Ballot Law Commission, 556 N.E.2d 366 (Mass. 1990) (holding a “signature requirement would be meaningless if the person supplying the signature has not first seen what it is that he or she is signing”); Cottonwood Development v. Foothills Area Coalition of Tucson, 653 P.2d 694 (Ariz. 1982) (holding “it is imperative that petitions ‘be attached to a full and correct’ copy of the measure to be referred, so that prospective signatories have immediate access to the exact wording of the public action”).

Here, the referendum proposed to allow voters to decide whether to repeal Ordinances 2001-09 and 2001-11. However, neither of these ordinances were attached to the petition. Instead, potential signers were required to decide whether to sign the petition based solely on the text of Ordinance 2002-01. Ordinance 2002-01, while proposing to repeal Ordinances 2001-09 and 2001-11, does not explain what these ordinances are or how they operate. Consequently, this referendum petition prevented signers from making informed decisions. Accordingly, we believe you should declare this referendum petition insufficient.


Janelle P. Eurick
Legal Department

Cc: Mark Shurtleff, Utah Attorney General