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SB54 opponents ask US Supreme Court to hear appeal

By Lisa Riley Roche, KSL | Posted - Oct. 9, 2018 at 9:37 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Republican Party petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to hear its appeal of a lower court ruling that upheld the state's controversial law dealing with how political parties nominate candidates.

The 2014 law, known as SB54, was upheld earlier this year by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. A request by the Utah GOP for a full hearing by the appeals court was denied.

The party's attorney, Gene Schaerr, said in his petition to the Supreme Court that the First Amendment "gives 'special protections' to 'the process by which a political party selects a standard bearer'" and that the law violated the party's rights.

Utah Elections Director Justin Lee had no comment on the pending litigation.

SB54 allows candidates to choose to gather voter signatures for a place on the primary ballot, allowing them to bypass the traditional caucus and convention system used by political parties to select nominees.

The controversial law has caused considerable contention within the Republican Party, with some leaders pushing to end the court fight while others in the GOP turned to a private donor for help paying the legal bills.

Utah Republican Party Chairman Rob Anderson told the Deseret News Tuesday evening, "This is the final step to resolution of this lawsuit that's been going on for four years. So I look forward to the Supreme Court's decision on whether they take action and hear it or not."

"It's the last step of a contentious period in the Utah Republican Party. … Let's bring this to a finality and let the Republican Party be heard."

Don Guymon, spokesman for the Utah Republican Party Constitutional Defense Committee, said in a statement released Tuesday that all of the bills associated with the legal challenge have been paid.

"This enables us to keep the principled fight for every Utah citizen's First Amendment freedoms alive, so that every Utah neighborhood has a real and meaningful voice in Utah politics," Guymon said.

The writ filed with the Supreme Court follows a failed attempt by backers of the Count My Vote initiative petition intended to strengthen SB54 to qualify for the November ballot.

Count My Vote sparked the law four years ago by circulating an initiative that would have eliminated the ability of political parties to advance candidates to a primary ballot.

SB54 was the result of a compromise between Count My Vote and the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature.

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