Now engulfed in a second round of litigation from the Utah Republican Party, the 2014 legislative compromise known as Senate Bill 54 could result in mass confusion rather than increased voter participation. During a forum at Weber State University Wednesday, Jan. 13, two experts on Utah’s two paths to the primary election under SB54 — Count My Vote Executive Director Taylor Morgan and Utah Deputy Director of Elections Justin Lee — spoke about how the law has evolved and what that means to candidates and voters. “The only thing that’s more confusing than Utah’s old caucus/convention system is this new SB54 mess,” Morgan told the audience of about three dozen people, many of them candidates or political insiders.
A second lawsuit, filed Friday, Jan. 15, by the state GOP, asks U.S. District Judge David Nuffer to block enforcement of SB54 and allow the Republican Party to disqualify candidates who gather signatures but bypass the caucus/convention nominating process. The complaint, which names Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox as defendants, also questions SB54’s high signature-gathering thresholds. Both Herbert and Cox are Republicans.
The initial federal lawsuit, brought by the Utah Republican and Constitution parties, resulted in last fall’s ruling by Nuffer that allowed those two parties to keep their primaries closed, a practice that excludes unaffiliated voters and anyone registered with another political party. Utah currently has over 600,000 registered voters who have not signed on with any party. Democrats and Libertarians keep their primaries open.