A federal judge on Friday declined the Utah Republican Party’s request to block the state’s new method for nominating political candidates, finding that the law doesn’t unfairly infringe on the party’s rights. “At this point there will be no injunction against the enforcement of Senate Bill 54,” U.S. District Judge David Nuffer ruled from the bench after hearing nearly five hours of argument, most of it from the attorney representing the Utah GOP. Later, Nuffer said, the party may be able to show it might be harmed by the law, but now there are paths it could take where it wouldn’t be burdened and it would be premature to block the law. The trial on the party’s legal challenge will still go forward and the judge has said he hopes to have the case resolved early next year.
The ruling leaves the party with a stark choice: Change its bylaws to comply with the law when delegates meet at the state party convention in August or face the prospect of not having any Republican candidates on the ballot in 2016.
State GOP Chairman James Evans said the party will consider the changes, but the decision will ultimately be up to the delegates. In a statement to the court, Evans argued the party doesn’t have enough time to adopt the required changes.
“I can state with certainty that the party cannot adopt the monumental amendments required to alter the basic structure and function of the party to make it consistent with Senate Bill 54’s requirements in time to meet the deadlines imposed,” he said.