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Judge Rules in Favor of Rejected State School Board Candidates: Orders Their Names Go on Ballot

Joe Gratz via flickr

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups ruled this morning that Utah must add two candidates who were rejected by the state’s controversial state school board election process to the November election ballot. The order comes after Waddoups ruled last week that the current process is unconstitutional.

During Thursday’s hearing at the federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City, Waddoups initially considered invalidating this year’s state school board election altogether. But after attorneys for spurned school board hopefuls Breck England and Pat Rusk argued that’s not what they had asked for, Waddoups made a less-dramatic decision. He ordered the plaintiff’s names be placed on the ballot instead. England and Rusk were initially rejected for candidacy by a committee hand-picked by the governor to vet and recruit candidates. England says he was validated by the decision, but the law must still be changed.

“Long term solution should be as I said, the judge should order the state of Utah not to enforce that unconstitutional statute any further,” England says. “There shouldn’t be any more committee to decide who gets on the ballot and there should be a free, open non-partisan election.”

England will be on the ballot for the school board district that covers Davis County. Rusk’s district covers areas of West Jordan and Taylorsville.

Marty Carpenter is a spokesperson for Utah Governor Gary Herbert. He says the governor’s interpretation of the law is contrary to Waddoups’ ruling. Luckily, he says Waddoups’ decision is timely.

“This is probably in light of the ruling that we had earlier the most prudent course of action to get us to where we could meet the deadlines of our print date to get the ballots actually put together then be able to fulfill the statutes of distributing those ballots to overseas voters, military voters, those who are outside of our state, mail-in ballots and such,” Carpenter says.

The Utah legislature has fought over the controversial process for picking state school board members for years. Many lawmakers agree the process needs to change, but have never agreed on an alternative.

England filed the lawsuit against Herbert back in June. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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