A dispute over the interpretation of Utah’s election laws has resulted in the Lt. Governor’s office sending several letters aimed at clarifying their position.
The latest dispute over the compromise legislation known as SB54 is over whether or not the Utah Republican Party can force its candidates to go through the caucus and convention system to get the party’s nomination. Utah GOP Chairman James Evans says he believes ambiguity in the law allows them to do that. But Republican State Senator Todd Weiler says that goes against the intent the legislature had when it passed the bill. Weiler recently sent a letter to the Lt. Governor’s office asking for clarification. He says their response was pretty much what he expected it to be.
“The law very clearly says that the candidate of the party can choose to gather signatures, can choose to go to convention, or can choose to do both,” Weiler says.
The letter from the Lt. Governor’s office also says that if the Utah GOP revokes a candidate’s membership solely because they gathered signatures, that they will lose their status as a qualified political party. If that happens, the party also loses its ability to use the caucus and convention as a method for choosing their candidates.
The Utah GOP State Central Committee voted unanimously this weekend to join with the state to seek further clarification of the law from the Utah Supreme Court. But Evans says, until that happens, they’re sticking with their own interpretation.
“If someone wants to go and gather signatures or do a poll or whatever they want to do, that’s on them," Evans says. "What we say is you have to get 40% in convention to move forward.”
Evans says an even easier way to deal with this situation, would be to delay implementation of the law until 2018. A legislator already attempted to do that during the last legislative session, but failed.