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SCOTUS Denial Ends Utah GOP's Long-Running Challenge To Dual-Track Election Law

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The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from the Utah Republican Party over the state’s five-year-old election law, S.B. 54, allowing a candidate multiple pathways to the primary ballot.

The Supreme Court denied certiorari for the case — Utah Republican Party v. Spencer J. Cox — on Monday without comment, upholding a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision from last year.

The decision puts an end to a years-long court battle waged by hardline members of the Utah GOP who object to the dual pathway system allowing candidates to either collect signatures or pursue the nomination through the party’s caucus-convention system — or both.


“We accept and understand that this decision is final,” said Utah GOP chairman Rob Anderson in a statement on Twitter.

Anderson called on party members to “mend fences” and move forward from a feud that has caused bitter infighting and saddled the party with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.

“Let us no longer pit ourselves against one another. Instead, let us strengthen our party from within,” he said.

Anderson was elected as the party chair in 2017 in part because of his call to end the legal fight. But he was overruled by members of the Republican Party’s state central committee, who vowed to continue their legal appeals through the help of wealthy Utah businessman Dave Bateman.


Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the state’s top elections chief, issued a statement late Monday expressing relief to put the issue behind them.

"I do not get to pick and choose which laws to defend. Doing so would be disastrous to the very institutions that we hold dear," he said. "I am grateful to have finality on this contentious issue."

Phill Wright, a spokesman for the pro-caucus Keep My Voice campaign and member of the central committee, issued a statement thanking members of the party for continuing its fight for what he called “liberty.”  

“Despite the current legal setback, Keep My Voice will continue to advocate for giving every individual and neighborhood a representative voice, removing money as the dominant factor in elections and holding elected officials accountable,” said Wright.

S.B. 54 was passed into law in 2014 and has allowed several Republicans, from Congressman John Curtis to Sen. Mitt Romney, to ensure a spot on the primary ballot through signature gathering.

Opponents of the law say it dilutes the party’s power to vet and select their own candidates exclusively through county and state caucus conventions.

Rich McKeown, chair of the Count My Vote citizen initiative in favor of S.B. 54, praised the decision and said the dual pathway has proven to be both popular with voters and successful at increasing participation.

“There has never been a question about its constitutionality, and we are pleased the [c]ourts have repeatedly confirmed that,” he said in a statement.

This story has been updated with comments from the Lieutenant Governor.


Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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