Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

State And United Utah Party Argue Special Election Ballot Access In Federal Court

Julia Ritchey, KUER

A new political party in Utah is trying to get its candidate on the ballot in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Jason Chaffetz. On Friday morning, the United Utah Party was in court to make its case.

Judge David Nuffer did not issue a ruling Friday, but said he would make a decision as soon as possible.  

The new centrist party is alleging that the state of Utah is violating the group’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by not allowing candidate Jim Bennett to run under the party banner.

The party did not certify in time and Bennett was given the option of running as an unaffiliated candidate, which he refused to do.

In federal court on Friday, the United Utah Party’s attorney argued that the state had plenty of time to certify the party and allow its candidate on the ballot before the general election, especially since the party isn’t participating in a primary. 

But the state officials say election parameters and deadlines are set for a reason. Elections Director Mark Thomas said after the hearing that the Lt. Governor’s office can’t change the rules to accommodate a new party.

“In this case, it was during the declaration of candidacy that we were hearing that they might potentially want to become a party, which makes it difficult,” Thomas said.

The state argued that the UUP could have run a candidate if it had formed earlier. The new party countered in court that the party had no way of knowing that former Rep. Jason Chaffetz was going to resign.

Both sides said they felt that Judge Nuffer heard and understood their concerns. 

Outside the courthouse afterward, Bennett said he thinks Nuffer will rule in his favor and he’ll get on the ballot.

“I’ve thought all along that the law is on our side in this process and that it would probably be difficult to do this, but we were ready for the uphill fight,” Bennett told reporters.

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.