Group files paperwork for referendum on new state flag

Mar 7, 2023, 8:30 PM | Updated: Mar 8, 2023, 5:32 pm

state flag...

Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, sponsor of SB31, State Flag Amendments, poses for a photo with the new Utah state flag at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 2, 2023. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The topic of Utah’s new state flag is a hot button issue to some, and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. A group filed paperwork to the Lt. Governor’s Office on Monday for a referendum. They hope to repeal it. 

“This referendum is more about the process than it is about the actual flag itself,” said Chad Saunders, one of the people who filed the petition.

“I really think what it came down to, especially in the final days [of the session], people didn’t feel like the legislature was listening to them. Our goal here with this referendum was just to remind the legislature that they do represent their constituents.”

Saunders was asked specifically what it was about the flag that he didn’t like. 

“I think it’s a great logo, if they want to use it for branding and marketing, if they want to put it on a license plate, that’s terrific,” he said. “My background is marketing and advertising, I didn’t feel like we needed to replace our flag to do branding,” he said.

Saunders added that views vary among those who don’t like the new flag. During the flag’s debate in the legislature, some argued it was “canceling” state history. 

“Let’s be honest, conservatives are the modern-day boogie man right now,” Saunders said. “This is not a conservative issue. It’s an issue of listening to the people.”   

Bill sponsor weighs in

Sen. Dan McCay (R-Salt Lake City) told KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovoic that “there’s a chance” this could end up on the ballot for voters to weigh in on.

“This is one of those times and one of those debates where it’s not really partisan,” McCay said.

“This fight is not about the old flag. The old flag is still going to fly in the state of Utah…Really this fight is [about], can people who want a new flag, can they have a flag and can the historic flag fly? Both can be honored and really recognize the state.” 

McCay recognized that some people feel like that’s threatening to the existing flag.

“I don’t see it that way,” he said, arguing that several states have multiple flags. 

McCay also defended costs of replacing the old flag.

“The state vehicles, with the state seal on them, we won’t replace them,” said McCay. He said many of the flags that fly at state buildings “last a month.”

“We will plan to replace the old flags with the new ones as the other ones wear out,” he said. 

He added that “there is zero dollars in the bill.” Though did say they spent $300 thousand dollars on outreach and polling.  

McCay argued the referendum would cost taxpayer more to fight. 

“If the public doesn’t want it, then great, onward and upward,” he said.

What is the proposal for the flag referendum?

A statewide referendum sends a law passed by the Legislature to the voters at the next general election for their approval or rejection. 

According to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, the group must collect 134,298 signatures statewide. Additionally, they must meet certain signature thresholds in at least 15 of the state’s 29 counties. The deadline is April 12. 

Sponsors of the referendum must collect hand-written signatures. Electronic signatures are not allowed, according to the instructions for a state referendum website.


Sponsors are also advised to obtain more signatures than what is required for two reasons.
  • Some signatures may be disqualified.
  • Individuals may remove their signature from the petition at a later time.

Furthermore, sponsors have 40 days from the end of the legislative session to collect the necessary signatures. The legislative session ended Friday, setting the deadline for April 12. 

Once the signatures have been collected, they will be sent to the County Clerk’s Office for verification. The signatures are sent to the County Clerk’s Office from which they were collected.
The approval or denial of the state flag referendum is based on the number of signatures collected by the sponsors and that are able to be verified by the County Clerk.
From there, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson will declare if the petition is sufficient or insufficient. If is determined to be sufficient, it will be placed on the ballot of the next election.
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Group files paperwork for referendum on new state flag