Sen. Mike Lee backs Utah GOP lawsuit against signature gathering, but he also gathered signatures to get a spot on the ballot

Posted at 3:20 PM, Nov 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-27 17:20:28-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee contributed a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Utah Republican Party’s long-running lawsuit against the state over political candidates gathering signatures to get on the ballot.

But election records show that Utah’s junior senator himself gathered signatures to secure a spot on the ballot. In 2016, when Sen. Lee was up for re-election, he filed the paperwork certifying he had gathered 28,000 signatures to qualify for a spot in a primary.

He didn’t have to worry about it. Sen. Lee won the GOP nomination outright and went on to defeat Democrat Misty Snow.

Last week, he joined Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho; and First Congressional District Rep. Rob Bishop in authoring an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court. In it, the lawmakers urged the nation’s top court to strike down a lower court ruling upholding signature gathering.

The Utah GOP sued the state over Senate Bill 54, a bill crafted after a citizen ballot initiative known as Count My Vote started to gain steam. It allowed candidates to gather signatures, go through the caucus/convention system — or both, as Sen. Lee did, to get a spot in a primary.

The Utah Republican Party has argued SB54 violates its First Amendment right to free association by letting party delegates pick candidates. Critics of the caucus/convention system say only hardline candidates advance out of the state party convention, removing moderates who tend to win the general elections. The courts have consistently upheld the signature-gathering method. Senator-elect Mitt Romney, Third District Congressman John Curtis and Governor Gary Herbert have also used signature-gathering to ensure a spot when they all failed to win an outright nomination at convention.

“The signature process was the law of the land at the time and Sen. Lee has nothing against the signature process,” Lee spokesman Conn Carroll told FOX 13. “He does believe that parties ought to have the ability to choose how they choose their own candidates though and he looks forward to the courts resolving the issue.”