Proposed initiative to end Utah’s mail-in voting could be in trouble

Backers need more than 137,000 signatures by next Tuesday.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Laura Jacobs runs the Agilis ballot sorting machine at the Salt Lake County building, on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.

The deadline for backers of the “Secure the Vote” initiative to turn in enough signatures to qualify for November’s ballot is next week. They do not appear to be off to a good start.

The group submitted its first round of signatures on Monday. The Utah Elections Office says that the initial batch had about 1,000 signatures, but they won’t officially count until county clerks verify those signatures.

Supporters have until Feb. 15 to submit 137,929 total signatures. They also need to reach certain thresholds in 26 of Utah’s 29 state Senate districts.

If voters approve it, the initiative replaces Utah’s vote by mail system with same-day paper ballots cast at local precinct polling places. Absentee ballots would be allowed only in limited circumstances, and it would be more difficult to register to vote.

According to a fiscal analysis of the proposal, returning to in-person paper balloting would cause the cost of elections in Utah to skyrocket.

On Monday, a supporter named “Tiffany America” posted a live stream as she and “Stephanie Liberty” turned in packets at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office.

But what was supposed to be a triumphant social media moment quickly turned into a harsh civics lesson as the clerk found several signatures invalid because they were collected more than 30 days ago. The clerk couldn’t accept an entire packet because one signature was dated 2021.

Organizers seem to know they’re facing a steep uphill climb. Last week, Lew Moore appeared on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast to plead for more signatures. ”We need a lot more help, and we need people to plug into what we’re doing so we can get this thing on the ballot,” Moore said. “We need to get the petitions that are filled out back as soon as we can, and we need to get a lot more of them out there.”

”We’re on a deadline,” Moore added.