SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Republican Party suddenly announced it would be ending their legal challenge to Senate Bill 54, the so-called “Count My Vote” compromise law.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, Utah GOP chairman Rob Anderson said in part that for financial reasons, they would end the years-long legal war with the state of Utah.
Read the chairman’s statement here:
“It was decided that the on-going legal challenge needs to end in order to move the Party forward. Historically, plaintiffs who appeal to the 10th Circuit have less than a 4% chance of prevailing. Many of the comments by the judges – including the reference to Bernie Sanders running for office as a Republican – were not germane to our argument before the court.
A consensus was built today among leaders in Utah’s Republican Party who concur with the sentiment that we need to return financial integrity to the Party. We will direct legal counsel to meet with the Utah Democrat Party and the State’s Attorney to begin dismissal proceedings. By ending the legal challenge, we hope to preserve the dual path to the ballot which we believe to be preferable to the majority of Utahns. We anticipate a robust election year in 2018, as we recommit ourselves to conservative financial principles as outlined in our platform which will better allow us to support our Republican nominees.”
The abrupt decision to pull out of the lawsuit — for the second time — comes as the Utah GOP is waiting for a ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. A federal judge in Salt Lake City ruled against the Republican party, which appealed to the higher court.
The Utah GOP has struggled with debt as a result of the lawsuit, losing major party donors. In September Utah Gov. Gary Herbert threw a fundraiser to assist the party with its efforts to get out of debt.
In 2014, a ballot initiative called “Count My Vote” was polling to pass when supporters struck a compromise with the Utah State Legislature. That led to SB54. When it passed, the GOP sued the state and Gov. Gary Herbert, arguing that it violated their First Amendment free association rights.
The Utah GOP’s state central committee has voted to withdraw from the lawsuit once before, then jumped back in. Anderson’s decision to get out again could face pushback from members of the committee who have long supported the lawsuit.
The committee will meet on Saturday in Park City.