SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Republican Party doesn't intend to comply with the state's controversial election law, even after the Utah Supreme Court rejected its arguments that political parties and not candidates decide how to access the primary election ballot.
The Utah GOP argues that the court's ruling forces it to accept candidates who seek a nomination for office solely through the signature gathering process, which violates its bylaws, according to a new federal court filing Wednesday.
"The party is concerned that a candidate will be certified and imposed on the party who does not satisfy the requirements and follow the rules," attorneys Marcus Mumford and Christ Troupis wrote.
U.S. District Judge David Nuffer asked the state Republican Party to respond to several questions in light of last week's Utah Supreme Court decision, including whether it would follow the law and whether it would kick out candidates who only gather signatures.
The state high court ruled that there is no ambiguity in the election law known as SB54 that candidates — not the party — decide whether to collect signatures, go through Utah's traditional convention system or both to secure a spot in the primary election.
Utah GOP lawyers told the judge the state Republican Party would continue its legal fight to choose nominees who best represent its platform and preserve its free association rights. The next federal court hearing in the ongoing lawsuit is scheduled for Friday.
Requiring the party to accept the "unconstitutional and discriminatory signature gathering path" condition to keep the caucus/convention route violates its right to participate in the Utah political process, according to the court memo.
The party intends to disqualify candidates who don't win support from at least 40 percent support of convention delegates.
Nuffer also asked the party to outline its rule expelling members who only collect signatures and if it had started to do so.
Party lawyers wrote that the Utah GOP had not started revocation proceedings against any member as of April 11 and said "the party convention has not commenced."
Gathering signatures does not disqualify candidates seeking the party's nomination through the convention process.
"Only if that member fails to also satisfy the party requirement to obtain at least 40 percent of the convention votes for that office would a member be barred from seeking the nomination," according to the Utah GOP.
Nuffer earlier found the signature gathering provisions are not unconstitutional. He called it a "realistic" means of access, noting that some candidates have already qualified for the primary election that way.
Even though the petition requirements would raise "serious" constitutional concerns if that were the only way to the ballot, the parallel convention path "undisputedly" provides access, Nuffer wrote.
The Utah Democratic Party, which intervened as a plaintiff in the case, said the Utah GOP has no respect for state law and should stop impeding people's access to the primary ballot.
"How long is the Utah Republican Party going to play this game?" state Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon said in a statement. "Utahns are tired of obstruction and disenfranchisement from the Utah GOP."
Corroon said the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office, which oversees state elections, should revoke the Republican Party's "qualified political party" status. A qualified political party must allow both signature gathering and the convention route to get on the ballot.