Judge may rule in Utah GOP’s favor on signature-gathering

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SALT LAKE CITY — In a new court filing, a federal judge signaled that he may side with the Utah Republican Party in a lawsuit over how political candidates get on the ballot.

In an order handed down Friday night, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer indicated he may find signature-gathering for Republican candidates to get on the primary ballot unconstitutional.

“It appears that the signature gathering requirements… which require respectively 2,000 signatures for a state Senate district race and 1,000 signatures for a state House district race, may be unconstitutional as applied to the (Utah Republican Party),” he wrote.

The judge asked the state and the Utah Republican Party and the Utah Democratic Party for additional briefings before a hearing on March 14.

If the judge sided with the Utah GOP, it would be a major victory in a legal challenge to a law crafted by the legislature in response to the “Count My Vote” ballot initiative, which sought to end the caucus/convention system preferred by the party. The law allowed candidates to signature gather or go through the caucus/convention system.

Many candidates, including Governor Gary Herbert, have been gathering signatures.

The Utah Republican Party previously won a legal challenge over whether to allow unaffiliated voters in its elections. The judge ruled it violated the Utah GOP’s First Amendment right to free association.

Read the ruling here: