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Federal Judge Likely to Strike Down Parts of SB54

Brian Grimmett
Utah GOP Chairman James Evans

The Utah Republican Party’s lawsuit over possible changes to the caucus convention system could soon be resolved as a federal judge is poised to modify the law known as SB54.

U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer did not make a decision during Tuesday’s hearing on whether Utah’s new election law, SB54, is unconstitutional. But he did clearly indicate how he is likely to rule. One of the requirements of SB54 is that political parties have to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in their primary elections. Judge Nuffer says he believes that violates a party’s first amendment rights and will likely strike down that part of the law. He’ll make his decision final when he issues an order in the next few weeks. Pending an appeal, that order will essentially resolve this case.

Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said he’s satisfied with how Nuffer indicated he’d rule. Evans also said that he believed the judge provided a clear path for the party moving forward.

“Our rules are clear that we have the caucus convention route. And I believe you heard the judge mention that that’s his understanding of the law," Evans said. "That as a qualified political party we can select either the convention route, or the petition route, or we can do both. And we’ve selected the convention route.”

“If someone just gathered signatures would they be able to get the endorsement of the Republican Party?” I asked.

“No. We’ve defined membership as those who comply with our constitution and bylaws.”

“Which is the caucus and convention system?”

“Yeah. That’s what our rules show. Yes.”

While this judgment will settle some of the specific constitutional claims made by the Utah GOP, attorneys for the state indicated that the party’s interpretation of the law could possibly lead to other lawsuits.

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