Gov. Herbert adjusts signature gathering requirements to allow for social distancing

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People vote at the University of Utah Marriott Library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (Trent Nelson /The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Amid an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, elections are looming. Utah’s governor is making adjustments to the signature-gathering process for candidates to get on the ballot.

In order to better accommodate social distancing measures that help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order Thursday suspending certain sections of state statute regarding requirements on signature gathering.

“This is a matter of fairness and preserving the integrity of our election process in these unusual times,” Gov. Herbert said in a statement. “By easing certain requirements of the signature gathering process, but requiring that signatures be verified by the State after submission, this order strikes the appropriate balance in preserving a signature gathering path to the ballot, even as Utahns follow orders and recommendations regarding social distancing.”

RELATED: Mandatory shelter-in-place? Governor Gary Herbert says Utah is not to that point

Specifically, the order suspends the requirement that petition packets be bound prior to circulation and that someone personally witness each signature.

Accordingly, the following actions are now permitted:

  1. A candidate may send or make available an electronic copy of the signature page of a signature packet to any interested voter. The candidate is not required to furnish a cover page or circulator page to the interested voter.
  2. An interested voter may print and physically sign the signature page.
  3. The interested voter may send the pages back to the candidate via regular mail, fax, or e-mail.
  4. The candidate may assemble any returned signature pages and then submit the signature packet to the election officer in-person or via designated agent. The packet does not require a circulator page.

Herbert’s announcement comes days after the President of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch Jeanetta Williams urge the governor to rethink the signature-gathering process in light of the pandemic.

The Governor’s Office noted Lt. Governor Spencer Cox was not involved in the decision process due to his status as a gubernatorial candidate.*

*The Governor’s Office said these decisions were made in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General and former Lieutenant Governor Gayle McKeachnie, who has been working with the elections office in an advisory capacity since May of 2019.

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