The Utah Republican Party is asking the Lieutenant Governor’s office to help hurry a dispute over how candidates are nominated to a court so a judge can rule on the matter because, as the party chairman put it, the top elections office is no longer an “honest broker” on the issue. State GOP Chairman James Evans cited comments by Mark Thomas, the state elections director, in which he characterized as “crazy stuff” Evans’ contention that the party can decide whether to let candidates gather signatures to get on the primary ballot. “We have decided it is in the best interests of the party to not seek the [lieutenant governor’s] interpretation of the law,” Evans said. “Instead, we want to proceed to court for a determination since we have lost confidence that we would get a fair hearing and that the LG’s office would be an honest broker.”
Evans sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox on Tuesday evening, asking Cox’s office for a detailed interpretation of its view of the law so it can potentially go back to court and ask a judge for a ruling on the matter. Thomas said the state would consider the request.
Cox’s office has said they interpret the law to allow candidates seeking a party’s nomination to either go before delegates at the party convention, as has traditionally been done, or to gather a required number of signatures on a petition to bypass the convention and secure a spot directly on the primary ballot.
But Evans and GOP attorneys contend that the bill lets the party choose how its candidates will be nominated — either through the convention, signature-gathering or both — and the Republican Party has chosen the convention. GOP hopefuls who go the signature route, moreover, will be in violation of the party’s rules and could be disqualified from the ballot.