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SALT LAKE CITY -- Backers of a citizens' ethics petition say they aren't sure if they'll have enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot this fall; however, they believe if they fail now, they can still put it on the ballot in 2012.
It's turned into an epic battle, fought over paper petitions and legal provisions.
As Salt Lake County clerks began certifying thousand of petition packets inside, reform advocates gathered outside in front of a plaque honoring the First Amendment. Their main message: The fight continues.
"It is not over. We're in overtime," says Kim Burningham, with Utahns for Ethical Government.
If we can't make it this year, we'll be on in 2012. We are determined to get this on the ballot.
–- David Irvine, attorney with Utahns for Ethical Government
Burningham's group needs 95,000 signatures statewide. Its leaders say they definitely have 77,000, plus an unknown number turned in directly to county clerks statewide.
That may not be enough, but Friday the group unveiled what may be an ace in the hole -- an item in a section of the election code that says initiative sponsors shall qualify for the ballot no later than a year after the application is filed.
April 15 is the deadline to turn in signatures to put a petition on the 2010 ballot, but since the group filed its application last August, leaders believe they can continue gathering signatures for four more months.
"If we can't make it this year, we'll be on in 2012. We are determined to get this on the ballot," says David Irvine, attorney for Utahns for Ethical Government.
Many lawmakers oppose the petition and may disagree with the group's interpretation.
"It's an awful petition, and people who read all 21 pages discover it's a very odious petition, and it doesn't do what they pretend it does," Sen. Howard Stephenson, R- Draper, said earlier this week.
KSL News attempted to get reaction Friday from the State Elections Office and Attorney General's Office, as well as one key lawmaker, but state offices are closed, and we were unsuccessful in making contact with them.
Meanwhile, leaders of a citizen initiative petition on redrawing voting boundaries say they did not get enough signatures to make November's ballot.
The Fair Boundaries group says it gathered about 50,000 of the 95,000 signatures they needed by Thursday's deadline. Their initiative would have set up an independent redistricting commission to redraw U.S. House, state legislative and state school board districts after the 2010 Census.