clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

All candidates would make primary ballot if judge strikes part of Utah election law, state says

FILE: If a federal judge strikes down the signature gathering requirement in Utah election law, the state would place all eligible candidates on the primary election ballot, state attorneys said in a court filing Thursday.
FILE: If a federal judge strikes down the signature gathering requirement in Utah election law, the state would place all eligible candidates on the primary election ballot, state attorneys said in a court filing Thursday.
Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — If a federal judge strikes down the signature gathering requirement in Utah election law, the state would place all eligible candidates on the primary election ballot, state attorneys said in a court filing Thursday.

State House and Senate candidates who file for office, declare their intent to collect signatures and turn in a petition containing the signatures of two registered voters in the district would qualify, according to the filing.

Because the law uses the word "signatures" candidates would need to only submit two to the lieutenant governor's office, which oversees state elections.

Thursday's filing came in response to U.S. District Judge David Nuffer's order that the state and the Utah Republican Party respond to his advisory last week that the law's signature gathering thresholds for state House and Senate districts are too high and might be unconstitutional.

The Utah GOP argues in its response that if Nuffer were to strike down that provision in the law, Republican candidates could not use the signature gathering path until or unless the Legislature reset the thresholds within constitutional limits.

GOP candidates, however, would be able to seek nomination through the long-standing caucus and convention process, Republican Party attorneys say.

Nuffer found signature gathering percentage requirements in House district races range from 7.1 percent to 57.2 percent, and Senate district races range from 6.2 percent to 30.8 percent. Anything exceeding 5 percent could be found unconstitutional, he wrote.

State lawmakers considered running legislation that would have adjusted the thresholds to 2 percent or 3 percent.

But because GOP House and Senate leaders were at odds about exactly what to do before the Legislature adjourns Thursday, they are leaving it to the judge.

"For good or ill, we're not going to come to agreement on SB54 issues," said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, adding it was a "very divisive, very political, difficult issue for the Legislature to come to agreement on."

That rankled some legislators who argued candidates and voters deserve to have the Legislature clarify the law for at least the 2016 election cycle.

Dozens of candidates are circulating petitions under the law, and some have completed them. The candidate declaration period starts Friday, and candidates must file a declaration and, if they choose, intent to collect signatures by March 17.

The election law approved by lawmakers two years ago, known as SB54, allows candidates to gather signatures, go through the state's caucus and convention system or both to get on the primary ballot.

The Utah GOP sued the state to preserve the caucus and convention as the only way secure a spot on the ballot. The primary election is scheduled for June 28.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy