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Judge denies request in District 57 lawsuit

Published: Friday, Jan. 28 2011 8:35 p.m. MST

Craig Frank announces his resignation as the Utah State Representative from District 57 during a news conference at the Utah Capitol building in Salt Lake City, Utah Friday, Jan. 21, 2011. At left is Frank's wife Kim Frank.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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AMERICAN FORK —  A group of Utah County Republican delegates will meet Saturday to pick a new representative for House District 57, following a failed attempt by a group of Cedar Hills delegates to have a judge halt the election or let them vote in it.

Eight Cedar Hills residents filed a lawsuit against state and county government and GOP officials late Thursday. But following a hearing Friday, 4th District Judge Christine Johnson said she did not have judicial authority to rule in the case.

After the hearing, plaintiffs were more upset with the Legislature's refusal to resolve the issue.

"I am tired of the few people up there who are blocking this that are doing it for personal political power instead of core principles," said Karen Hurd, a plaintiff and delegate.

The controversy involves a faulty Utah County election map drawn up after the 2000 census and redistricting.  Based on that map, some 2,500 residents in an area of Cedar Hills had been voting for the wrong state House, Senate and congressional candidates for 10 years.

But they, and the officials they thought they voted for, didn't know that until earlier this month when now-former GOP state Rep. Craig Frank entered his address into a new House website, based on the official state map, and he saw another lawmaker's name appear as his representative. He had moved into the disputed Cedar Hills area two years ago and consulted the county map to ensure he had stayed within his legislative district.

He notified officials and had hoped to keep his seat, arguing that his election had been certified by the lieutenant governor's office. But Frank gave up that fight after the House GOP caucus overwhelmingly voted against seating Frank or redrawing the district boundaries.

While there is legislation pending to redraw the district's boundary that would allow Frank to run in Saturday's special election, there appears no appetite on Capitol Hill to touch it. Frank had been a political ally of new House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, raising questions about the appearance of cronyism among some lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the Utah County Republican party will hold its special election Saturday, where 130 delegates will cast ballots in Pleasant Grove at 7 p.m. Six candidates have filed to fill the seat and party leaders are verifying their eligibility before tomorrow's vote.

The delegates' pick will be submitted to Gov. Gary Herbert, who will make the official appointment.

"We'll have a name Saturday night so we'll be (on Capitol Hill) Monday morning and hopefully they can welcome the new representative and get right to work," said Taylor Oldroyd, chairman of the Utah County Republican Party.

The delegates sued the county GOP, Gov. Gary Herbert, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, Utah County Clerk Bryan E. Thompson and the state Republican Party.

The plaintiffs argued they had right to vote for their representative, and that lieutenant governor had certified the election and the boundaries and that decision should stand.

But Tom Roberts, as assistant attorney general representing Bell, told the court that there is no basis for the suit and it was the Utah County clerk, who was the chief election officer, who is responsible for the map mixup.

An attorney for the county and state Republican Party told the judge it is up to those who legally live within the district to choose the representative.

Until Frank discovered the problem, residents thought he'd been their representative since 2003, along with state Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, and Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Instead, they're represented by state Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, state Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper; and Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson.

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