By Iron Tiger
Late last year it came to my attention that the legislature had been engaged in trying to create a new, “diverse and inclusive” flag of the State of Utah. As someone who is proud of our State, our rather tolerant and quiet way of life, I took umbrage at the notion that the State’s flag needed to be redesigned at all, as its simple elegance, filled with a great deal of history and symbols was not at all like the Mississippi flag, which included the controversial Democrat Party/Confederate Battle Flag in its design. I saw nothing offensive there that needed to be swept away. However, our legislators decided that our flag was boring, and they wanted a new one.
And so it goes that many of us who had not been aware that this was going on got together and assembled a petition for a referendum to stop this new law (SB31) from taking effect. However, we learned the hard way that referendum petitions only give you thirty days to get the required signatures, I believe around 150,000 signatures or so. Utah’s official site offers a table with a percentage breakdown, and it varies from type of jurisdiction to jurisdiction. -1 In my opinion, we did very well, when you factor in poor weather conditions, lack of awareness of the issue among the general public, and a limited number of volunteers. Had we had a week or two more, I bet we would have gotten this done.
So, we didn’t get the signatures. But then the Utah GOP voted at Convention to support our Historical Flag as Utah’s only flag and to reject the new one. As more people become aware that this was happening, more people wanted to get involved with the effort to stop it. The organizers behind the referendum then investigated what other options are available and found out that a ballot initiative is still an option.
So, what’s the difference? A Petition for a referendum is designed to stop a law that was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor from going into effect. We only have 30 days from the time the legislation is passed and signed into law to get enough signatures to stop it. Meanwhile, a petition for an initiative changes, repeals, or creates a law. The good news here is that signature gatherers have significantly more time to sign the petition.
Sadly, signatures gathered for a referendum cannot count toward an initiative. If you signed the previous petition, a new signature will be needed.
The end goal of both petitions is to let the voters decide whether or not the State will accept the new flag. Should the initiative succeed, and voters approve it, we will keep the State’s Historic flag as our only flag, and the new one will be rejected. Should voters vote no, then SB31 will stand, and the new flag will take effect next March.
Whether or not you like the new flag, I would encourage you to sign the petition for the initiative, because such a significant change to the States’s historic iconography is a matter everyone should have a say in.