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Lt. Governor Clarifies 2016 Election Process Amidst New Lawsuit

Brian Grimmett/KUER
Lt. Governor Spencer Cox

Several candidates running for state offices in 2016 have begun gathering signatures in an effort to get on their party’s primary election ballot. But the process is far from settled as the Utah Republican Party has filed yet another lawsuit in federal court challenging the law that allows the alternative petition route.

The Utah Republican Party contends the law allows them to choose which route a candidate is allowed to take, while the Lt. Governor’s office says a candidate is free to choose either the convention route or the signature gathering route. The Utah GOP’s most recent lawsuit is seeking clarification on who is right, and claims that the Lt. Governor’s office has changed their mind on the issue since the first lawsuit was resolved late last year.

In light of the new lawsuit, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox released a memo on Monday explaining how they’d be administering this election.

“Because signature gathering has already started, my office is in the middle of an election cycle," he says. "And so my purpose behind this was to try and simplify and clarify to candidates, voters, parties, everyone out there that this is how we’d be moving forward unless and until a judge tells us differently.”

The memo answers several commonly asked questions and specifies the Lt. Governor’s office will not be removing any candidate from a primary ballot that successfully gathers enough signatures or that successfully makes it through their party’s convention process. The memo also says the Lt. Governor’s office will verify signatures as they come in.

Previously, Cox had been in discussions with leaders of the Utah GOP about taking this issue jointly before the Utah Supreme Court, but he says the GOP’s decision to take the issue to federal court has ended that possibility.

“That is completely the party’s prerogative, I don’t blame them for doing that, but it was a little bit of a surprise to us,” he says.

More than 70 candidates have already declared their intent to gather signatures, including Governor Gary Herbert and Senator Mike Lee. Cox says his office has already begun verifying thousands of signatures. 

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