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Utah GOP's Resumption Of SB 54 Lawsuit Irks Lawmakers

Julia Ritchey, KUER

The Utah GOP’s decision to resume a lawsuit against an election law it had previously said it would drop has aggravated some Republican lawmakers.

The Legislature passed Senate Bill 54 in 2014 as a compromise to preserve Utah’s caucus convention system while providing an alternative path for candidates to get on the ballot through signature gathering.  

The Utah GOP has been in litigation over this bill since then, vowing to continue its appeal to the 10th Circuit Court — despite two previous losses.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who sponsored SB 54 and a companion bill this session to address run-off elections, says they’ve tried acting in good faith with the party.

“We fulfilled our commitment to put forward a viable solution to plurality," he says. "That was based on a commitment from the GOP that if we did so, they would drop the lawsuit. They’ve apparently had a change of direction.”

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Davis, another supporter of SB 54, says it appears the GOP is bowing to pressure from party hardliners.

“The party has doubled down on the grassroots leg,” he says. “They have alienated the donors, they have alienated many of the elected officials, and they are in the process of alienating the general public. So I do think it’s an unfortunate turn of events.”

However, Utah GOP Chairman James Evans downplayed the suit and says they’re not trying to be adversarial.

“It’s okay if we differ on an issue, that doesn’t mean that we’re not united,” he says. “And so often times, these stories have pitched in that way, that because we disagree on an issue, that somehow we’re not united as a party, and we are united.”

The party’s Central Committee voted to resume its lawsuit, he says, on the condition they not incur anymore attorneys fees and that they make clear they support state lawmakers in their efforts to preserve the caucus system.


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