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Utah Republican Party Files New Lawsuit over Nominations Methods, Including Challenge to High Number of Signatures

Editor:  Interesting.  The current ballot access law in Tennessee, ruled unconstitutional by the 6th Circuit Federal Court four times in the last eight years, would have required your editor to pull 36,000 VALIDATED signatures running for Tennessee House in 2014.  This court required Tennessee to put both Constitution and Green Parties (parties to the law suit) on the ballot that year because the State has failed to bring Tennessee’s ballot access law into Constitutional compliance.  Remember if 36,000 signatures are required you better have double or 72,000 signatures on your petition because many signatures will be disqualified for not dotting i’s or crossing t’s.  My district only had about 34,000 registered voters and only about 24,000 of those vote with regularity.  The General Assembly has yet to correct it’s laws.

On January 15, the Utah Republican Party filed a new lawsuit over how the party nominates candidates. The new lawsuit is Utah Republican Party v Herbert, 2:16cv-38, and is assigned to Judge David Nuffer.

The party had filed a lawsuit with the same name on December 1, 2014, in the same court, before the same judge. That lawsuit ended with a decision that the party could not be forced to let independent voters vote in its primaries. And it resulted in an interpretation that when candidates petition to get on the Republican primary ballot, only registered Republicans may sign such petitions.

The party would rather eliminate the ability of candidates to petition onto the party’s primary ballot entirely, and let all nominations be made at party caucuses, with a provision that when someone doesn’t get nominated by the caucus, but gets at least 35% of the caucus vote, then there would be a primary between the two candidates who got at least 35%. That is the method used in Utah for many decades before 2014.

The new lawsuit argues that the party has a right to eliminate the petition method to get on a party primary ballot. But it also argues that if the state is going to have a petition procedure, the number of signatures required in the law is too high. The law says candidates seeking a place on a primary ballot need exactly 28,000 signatures; U.S. House candidates need 7,000; State Senate candidates need 2,000 signatures; State House candidates need 1,000 signatures. The lawsuit points out that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that petition requirements can’t be higher than 5% of the number of eligible signers. Because the first lawsuit resulted in a decision saying only party members can sign these primary petitions, these petition requirements violate U.S. Supreme Court precedent that limits how difficult petitions can be. The party points out that in a few legislative districts, the number of signatures is more than 50% of the number of eligible signers!

This lawsuit will almost certainly be expedited, because some Republican candidates are already petitioning to get on the 2016 primary, and they need to know whether their petitions are wasted effort or not. This lawsuit is the first lawsuit in U.S. history in which a major party has complained about the difficult requirements for candidates to get on their own primary ballots. Minor parties with primaries have had this problem in several states, and have had mixed success in overturning them in court. Massachusetts, Maine, and South Dakota are states in which when minor parties become entitled to their own primary, they have great trouble placing their candidates on the party’s own primary ballot.

 if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.


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