Lt. Governor asks U.S. Supreme Court to reject Utah GOP appeal

Posted at 2:17 PM, Jan 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-29 16:17:31-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Lt. Governor Spencer Cox has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the Utah Republican Party’s appeal of a lawsuit over how candidates get on the ballot.

In a filing with the nation’s top court, the Utah Attorney General’s Office (acting as Lt. Governor Cox’s lawyers) urged the court to deny the Utah GOP’s petition for certiorari.

“Petitioner Utah Republican Party asserts a First Amendment right to nominate candidates by convention rather than by the State-mandated primary. Those cases, however, stand in its way. So it now asks this Court to repudiate them. But the Party provides no certworthy reason to do so,” Utah Solicitor General Tyler Green wrote.

In response to a ballot initiative created by the group “Count My Vote,” which sought to let candidates gather signatures to get on the ballot, the Utah State Legislature approved Senate Bill 54. It created a dual path: candidates could either gather signatures or go through the caucus/convention system like the Utah GOP prefers.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Senator Mitt Romney, Senator Mike Lee and Congressman John Curtis have all gathered signatures to ensure a spot on the ballot.

The Utah Republican Party sued, arguing it violated their First Amendment right to free association. The ongoing litigation has left the Utah GOP deep in debt and pitted Republicans against Republicans. So far, the courts have ruled against the Utah GOP.

The Utah Democratic Party has also been tethered to this lawsuit and on Tuesday it also urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the lawsuit.

“In its petition, the Utah Republican Party contends that SB54 is the result of
discrimination or animus towards URP. There is absolutely nothing in the record to support this assertion. All the evidence is to the contrary,” Democratic party attorney David Billings wrote. “SB54 was passed by a majority of legislators who were URP members, signed into law by another member (Governor Herbert), and is enforced by yet another (Lieutenant Governor Cox). The law’s stated purpose was to open new avenues for
candidates to access the ballot so that primary voters had more choices.”

The Utah GOP gets to respond within a couple of weeks. The U.S. Supreme Court could decide by March if it will hear the case.

Read the Lt. Governor’s filing here (refresh the page if it doesn’t immediately load):

Read the Utah Democratic Party’s filing here (refresh the page if it doesn’t immediately load):