Two legislative candidates who were disqualified after missing the financial disclosure deadline will remain in their races.
Robert Miles, a candidate in House District 9, and Jonathan Storrs, running in House District 26, were ordered back on the ballot by 3rd District Judge Robert Reese Friday afternoon. They had been removed Tuesday by the state elections office, which is run by Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, because they did not file financial disclosures by 5 p.m. as required by state law.
Miles is challenging Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, and Storrs is attempting for the second time to unseat Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake. Both are Republicans.
A total of five candidates who were disqualified when they missed the deadline have now been restored by judges this election year, including three state school board candidates in September. All say they had problems with the state elections office Web site, and most said they were not contacted by elections officials prior to the deadline to alert them to a missing report.
Miles said in testimony during Friday's hearing that he had entered all of his disclosure information Monday, the day before the deadline, and thought he hit the submit button. But he did not verify that his report had been received and did not know anything was wrong until he was contacted by the Utah Republican Party Wednesday.
Storrs said he asked his father to submit the report, but his father was most likely using the wrong user name or password. He found out about the problem about 10 minutes before the deadline — his father had actually first attempted to log into the system at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday — but they were not able to get the report filed until 20 minutes after the deadline.
Their attorney, Todd Weiler, said that the candidates met the spirit of the law because they made "a good faith effort" to file.
Reese agreed, saying in his ruling that whatever the problems may have been, the candidates were not trying to skirt the law.
"Both Mr. Miles and Mr. Storrs made efforts that comply with state law," he said. "The problems seem to be technical."
Assistant Attorney General Thom Roberts, who was representing Herbert's office, barely contested the claims by the candidates in court and even said that "there seems to be evidence to find substantial compliance" with the law. His submitted evidence primarily supported the fact that the candidates were not able to file because of problems on their end and not because of errors within the elections office.
In his closing statement, he reminded the judge that Herbert's office "has no discretion" in whether to remove the candidates, but the courts can replace them.
Joe Demma, Herbert's chief of staff, said that he prefers the courts decide these matters so that the lieutenant governor, who is a partisan elected official, is not having to decide the fates of candidates on a case-by-case basis.
However, he did say that if every eliminated candidate can simply appeal to the courts and return to the ballot, it could be a problem. But so far, they have not seen widespread challenges.
"We have hundreds of candidates, and a few seem to have problems every time," he said. "This is nothing new."