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Judge tosses lawsuit over COVID-19 and the 2020 Utah governor's race

Jan Garbett
Posted at 11:42 AM, Jan 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-23 13:42:34-05

SALT LAKE CITY  — A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit filed by a candidate for Utah governor who argued her efforts to get on the ballot were impacted by COVID-19 health orders.

Jan Garbett sued, arguing then-Gov. Gary Herbert's state of emergency for COVID-19 halted her campaign for governor. She ran as a "never-Trump" Republican and sought to gather signatures to qualify for the ballot.

But COVID-19 health restrictions under Gov. Herbert's state of emergency made it difficult to safely gather signatures. A federal judge lowered the signature threshold for Garbett, but she still didn't qualify. Garbett pursued her lawsuit in federal court after being rejected for the June primary ballot, arguing the state violated her First Amendment rights.

In a ruling issued late Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby dismissed her lawsuit.

"It is not disputed that Garbett failed to garner the necessary number of signatures to show a modicum of support and was consequently not included on the Republican primary ballot. But as the court explained, she has suffered no injury because her failure to meet the necessary requirements means she no longer has a legally protected interest," he wrote.

The judge said Garbett could run for office in the future.

"Because Garbett framed the issues in this case so narrowly—challenging only the signature-collection requirements as applied to her individually and only in the 2020 election year—any judgment rendered in her favor would leave the current state of events unchanged," he wrote.