The Appellate Group

Smith v. Zook and Return Development LLC

Smith v. Zook and Return Development LLC, 2021 UT 10 (Lee, J.)

Election Law; Statutory Interpretation

Several citizens collected signatures in support of a referendum petition opposing an ordinance enacted by Nibley City. The Nibley City Recorder rejected the referendum petition on the ground that the signatures collected by mail, in response to a mailer, were not valid. The district court held that the mailer was valid under Governor’s Executive Order 2020-14, which suspended enforcement of certain provisions of the Election Code in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Utah Supreme Court reversed, holding:

  • Although the executive order suspended the requirements of the Election Code “to the extent” that they require referendum sponsors to “physically” attach a copy of the law and bind the packets, it did “not alter the more general requirement that sponsors create a referendum packet that ‘bind[s]’ together a ‘copy’ of the components of the packet in a single ‘unit’ to be ‘conveniently opened for signing’ by voters.” The mailer—a two-sided document that contained a URL link to the “referendum packet” material—did not satisfy this standard.

Read the full court opinion