While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has stated they will withdraw the rezoning request for the residential portion of their temple project, the referendum to repeal the rezone moves forward — at least until the withdrawal is formally made by the Church and accepted by the Tooele County Commission.
Tooele County Clerk Marilyn Gillettte announced on Aug. 26 that the petition to place the repeal of County Ordinance 2020-16 on a ballot did not meet the legal requirements of the law to be certified.
While Gillette was able to verify more than the total required signatures of Tooele County registered voters, the number fell short in two of the five county council districts.
Along with a minimum number of total signatures, state law requires a minimum number of signatures from at least 75% of the county’s districts.
With five County Council Districts in Tooele County, the petition needed enough valid signatures in four of the five districts.
Gillette verified 2,976 total signatures, 2,445 were needed. There were 660 signatures that were not verified.
Gillette listed the cause for not verifying signatures as; 345 were not registered to vote in Tooele County, 147 had bad addresses, 98 with information not matching voting records, 40 were duplicate signatures, 23 were not verified for other reasons and seven were listed as unreadable.
State code requires the County Clerk to verify petition signatures by matching signatures, names, and addresses with the statewide voter registration database.
In the past, addresses were not too critical as long as the voter was registered in Tooele County. This year addresses were more important because of the council district requirements, according to Gillette.
Tooele County voters will elect their first council members in the November 2020 general election. The County will transition to the County Council/Manager form of government on January 1, 2020. But, because the County Commission adopted the Council Districts in October 2019, the petition is required to qualify under those districts.
The petition sponsors were informed of the unverified signatures and given an opportunity to correct errors for signatures submitted before the deadline, according to Gillette.
The names of the verified petition signers, other than those who indicated on their voter registration record that they wanted their registration information to be private, were listed on the County Clerk’s website so signers can confirm if their signature was verfied, according to Gillette.
Gillette said the state code for referendum petitions does not permit or allow her to reach out to the people whose signatures were not verified, unlike the requirements for mail-in ballot verification.
Allison Kipp, one of the petition sponsors, said the sponsors will continue to pursue their legal options, at least until the Church formally requests a rescission of the rezone and the County Commission approves the rescission.
“Until then the properties still rezoned to P-C,” she said.
Kipp pointed out that the sponsors only have a 10 day window to respond.
“I don’t think the Church and the County can act within 10 days,” Kipp said. “We need to act to preserve our legal rights.”
Any sponsor may file a written demand with the local clerk for a recount of the signatures appearing on the referendum petition in the presence of any sponsor, according to state code.
State code also provides for any voter to apply to a court for an extraordinary writ to compel the local clerk to accept and file a referendum petition within 10 days after the clerk’s refusal to do so.
Kipp said once the Church and the County have formally withdrawn the rezone, the sponsors will drop their legal challenge to the petition signature decision.
On August 18, the Church released a statement attributed to the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that read, in part, “Therefore, regardless of the outcome of a pending signature-gathering effort, we have determined to withdraw our rezoning request for the residential portion of the temple project.”