The United Utah Party will file a lawsuit to compel the Utah Elections Office to certify its candidate, Jim Bennett, for the Third Congressional District.
This action is being taken because the Utah Elections Office refused to allow Bennett to file provisionally as a Congressional candidate after the UUP had submitted its paperwork for qualified party status but before the Utah Elections Office had certified the party.
Not only has the Utah Elections Office refused to allow Bennett to file, it also has not certified the party itself three weeks after the party submitted the necessary documentation to become a qualified political party. In the meantime, the Utah Elections Office has certified Republican Primary candidates Tanner Ainge and John Curtis after only a few days. Those candidates were required to submit 7000 signatures while the United Utah Party needed only 2000.
“The message could not be clearer. The Utah Elections Office does not want us on the ballot. They do not want us competing,” said Richard Davis, United Utah Party chair. “They have abused their power and violated the U.S. Constitution and Utah statutes by treating us in this manner. That’s why we have reluctantly concluded that we must sue for our rights and the rights of Utah voters to choose our candidates.”
In the legal claim, the party will make the argument that the Utah Elections Office has violated the Utah Elections Code as well as the due process clauses of the First and Fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
“The deadlines and rules set up by the Utah Elections Office for this special election are not in the Utah Elections Code,” Davis explained. “There is nothing in the code about gathering signatures in 20 days. There is nothing in the code that sets out the timetable they have established. They have made exceptions to the law to do that. We believe they can make exceptions to allow a candidate to file provisionally pending party certification. They are only willing to make exceptions that benefit them and are unwilling to make any other exceptions.”
Davis also said the Utah Elections Code is intended to be interpreted liberally to encourage rather than squelch voter choice and participation. The Utah Elections Office is doing the opposite by interpreting statutes to bar the party even though the same statutes could be interpreted to allow the party to participate in the special election.
“I guess we should be flattered that the Utah Elections Office is willing to spend taxpayer money to keep me off the ballot,” said Bennett. “Even though our small party is small and new, they must consider us quite a threat. In reality, they must administer the law and the U.S. Constitution fairly across political parties and candidates. And they are not doing that.”