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Democrats planning suit over ballot

Deseret Morning News graphic

It's official: the state and county Democratic Party will sue if Republicans certify write-in candidate Ellis Ivory as their official candidate for Salt Lake County mayor. That is unless Nancy Workman's doctor signs a "certificate of disability" drafted by the Democrats themselves.

"We believe that the letter of the law and the spirit of the law should be followed," state Democratic Party chairman Donald Dunn said. State law requires that a candidate who withdraws be "physically or mentally disabled" before the party can name a replacement.

Workman, the embattled GOP incumbent, filed a withdrawal affidavit last week accompanied with a note from her doctor, internist Philip Roberts, which said "the strain upon her physical and emotional condition disable her from continuing as a political candidate without unreasonably compromising her health."

Dunn and county party chairwoman Nichole Adams maintain that Workman is and was not disabled. The note has passed legal muster with county attorneys and Democratic County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, but they say it's not good enough.

Their proposed note would have Roberts state, "I certify that Nancy Workman is physically or mentally disabled."

It appears highly unlikely that the Democrats will get their way. Workman and Roberts did not return phone calls Wednesday, but the mayor's attorney, David Jordan, has previously said that the withdrawal and doctor's note are Workman's final words and that she will do nothing more regarding the matter.

County Republican Party chairwoman Tiani Coleman — to whom Dunn sent a copy of the certificate Wednesday morning — said she likewise plans to do nothing with it.

"I don't know why they sent it here," she said. "It has nothing to do with me."

While some members of the Republican Central Committee are agitating to the contrary, most members appear ready to certify Ivory as their candidate in their meeting next Tuesday. The timing of any Democratic legal challenge — including a possible one from independent Merrill Cook— after that will be extremely tight, since it will be less than a week before the election.

"We will hope that this gets bumped up to the top of the court calendar," Dunn said.

Given the unusual circumstances this election year, Swensen has prepared her troops to potentially change more than 4,000 ballot booklets, at the 11th hour if need be, "though I would prefer not to."

Swensen's office began delivering the booklets and other election materials to polling locations Wednesday. Each box of materials contains a bright green envelope at the top that election judges are instructed not to open unless notified.

The envelope contains replacement stickers containing updated names of mayoral candidates that judges will affix to the ballot booklets should Ivory be certified as the GOP candidate.

"Heaven forbid that they should certify another candidate," Swensen said.

Workman's name has already been blacked out.

Democratic mayoral candidate Peter Corroon, while agreeing with the principle of the thing, is nonetheless urging his party leaders to stay out of the courts.

"We need to get on with the election," he said Wednesday. "I have faith in the good citizens of Salt Lake County that if the Republican Party won't comply, or if Nancy Workman won't comply, they'll see it as a ruse."

As for Ivory, he's facing a lot of potentially confused voters. He's running as a write-in, but if he is certified at the last minute and appears on the ballot, any write-in votes for him at that time would not count.

Nevertheless, he says he would prefer to be on the ballot.

"I'm a pragmatist in realizing it would be better to go on the ballot, even at the very last minute," he said. "I think the media would be quick to let the world know."