Utah ballot measures include removing references to slavery and gender

Questions touch on tax dollars, slavery, water rights and gender

By Annie Knox, @anniebknox Oct 21, 2020, 8:00am MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns have more homework than just reading up on candidates for public office ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

The state’s voters will decide whether the state should make several proposed tweaks to the Utah Constitution, from removing a remaining mention of slavery to funneling income tax revenue to programs other than education. Information on the amendments can be found at

To pass, the constitutional amendments must win approval from a majority of Utah voters. Here’s a look at the seven measures on the ballot:

Nixing gender references — Amendment A
This ballot initiative had widespread support from Utah lawmakers and would remove gender-specific references in the Utah Constitution, changing them to “a person” instead of he or him.

Amendment A would clarify that it’s not just men who have certain legal rights, can be tried on impeachment or serve as the legislative auditor. Under the proposed changes, a section allowing marital conversations to remain confidential and not used in court cases would refer to a person’s spouse, instead of husband or wife.

Sen. Deidre Henderson, the Spanish Fork Republican who sponsored SJR7, has said the tweaks would be made in just a handful of the 237 sections of the state constitution.

Eligibility for legislative office — Amendment B
Voters will decide whether candidates must meet requirements for becoming a state lawmaker in Utah at the time of election or appointment, instead of at the time they take office. The constitution previously didn’t specify any cutoff and wasn’t clear, according to HJR4 sponsor Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City.

Amendment B affects the timeline, but the requirements to run would stay the same. They include U.S. citizenship, being at least 25 years old and living in Utah for at least three years in a row.

Removing slavery as punishment — Amendment C
Voters will decide whether to scrap language in the Utah Constitution referencing slavery as a potential punishment for a crime. It’s an exception that has remained in Utah code long after the U.S. government abolished slavery over 150 years ago.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, the Democratic lawmaker from Salt Lake City who sponsored legislation to put the question before voters, has said removing the “troubling and outdated” language will reflect that slavery isn’t a Utah value.

Nebraska voters are considering a similar clarification after a successful Colorado initiative last year.

The related resolution, HJR8, garnered bipartisan support and sailed through the Utah Legislature without opposition. Amendment C also been endorsed by the Utah Republican Party.

Changing city water rules — Amendment D
Another measure asks voters to approve new requirements for cities providing water to those outside their service boundaries under contracts. Amendment D would limit when cities can cancel the contracts and give users greater say in any changes to water rates. Proponents say municipalities currently can sever the agreements for no reason, jeopardizing about 150,000 residences in Salt Lake County and still more around the state, although none has done so yet. If successful, a related 2019 measure. HB31, sponsored by Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, will take effect.

A right to hunt and fish — Amendment E
Utahns also get to decide whether they should have a constitutional right to hunt and fish under Amendment E, which would declare those activities the preferred way of managing and controlling wildlife. Opponents note that the right to hunt and fish is not under attack and that the activities already enjoy strong protections here. “However, they are not so threatened or vital they must be enshrined in our state’s most sacred document,” they wrote for the official rebuttal provided on

Convening the Utah Legislature — Amendment F
Amendment F would allow the state’s lawmakers to change the start date of the Legislature, which the Constitution now sets as the fourth Monday in January. It specifies state holidays don’t count as part of the 45-day session and the session could start on a day in January that the lawmakers set.

Using income tax for more than education — Amendment G
Another proposed amendment seeks to expand the constitutional earmark on income tax to include programs for children and Utahns with disabilities. Proponents of Amendment G say the move is a recognition of how important mental and physical health are for academic success. Opponents say there’s already too little money to go around and Utah must pony up separately to provide access to health care for more children.