Utah GOP will allow candidates to gather signatures in 2020 despite conflicting rule that kicks them out of the party

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While the State Central Committee of the Utah Republican Party fell just short of the two-thirds vote needed Saturday to repeal the bylaw that has caused so much division in the party over the last few years, don’t fear — the SCC will take up the issue in December again.

As you may recall, 18 months ago, in a “special” emergency meeting, the old SCC voted changes to what’s called Bylaw 8, which in effect put the state party — under its then-Qualified Political Party status — in violation of SB54.

SB54 is the state law, in place since 2014, which says a candidate can take the signature-gathering route to the primary, the caucus/delegate/convention route, or both routes at the same time.

Newly-elected state party chairman Derek Brown tells UtahPolicy.com that in the December meeting the SCC — the 180-member party governing board — will take another vote on Bylaw 8.

There were only 108 members at Saturday’s SCC meeting. A motion to repeal the amendments made 18 months ago failed to get two-thirds by four votes — 68-40 in favor.

Saturday there was at-home football games for the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, and it could just be that four or more SCC members didn’t attend the meeting, choosing instead to go to one of those games or watch them on TV.

“There will be another vote” on repealing the Bylaw 8 amendments, said Brown, because at Saturday’s meeting “almost unanimously” there was a vote to take up proposed bylaw changes that didn’t make it on that agenda.

And there were two proposed changes to Bylaw 8 submitted, with only one failing. That means automatically Bylaw 8 will be reheard, and re-voted on, in December.

But a more important vote did pass Saturday, said Brown.

The SCC officially voted to make the Utah Republican Party a QPP for the 2020 election cycle.

That means, under SB54, the party recognizes that candidates can take the dual-route process, even if a bylaw (Bylaw 8 as amended) doesn’t recognize the signature-gathering route.

Interesting enough, Brown says he will — as the party bylaws say — send up to the Utah Election Office all bylaw changes which have not been sent up before.

And that means Bylaw 8 — which only recognizes caucus/convention candidates, not signature-gathering candidates — will go up to the UEO, overseen by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who is running for governor next year and almost certainly will take the signature-gathering route (and perhaps caucus/convention, too) when he officially files in early January.

Cox has said he’s recusing himself from any Utah Election Office procedures that could affect him as a candidate.

But his office will have to decide how to treat the Utah Republican Party as a QPP if it still has a bylaw that doesn’t follow QPP requirements come next year’s candidate/convention filing dates fall.

That pickle was solved in 2018 by former party chairman Rob Anderson by refusing to send up the Bylaw 8 amendments, and by Cox who said his office (he was not on the ballot last year) wouldn’t recognize any “illegal” party bylaw changes.

Justin Lee, UEO director, told UtahPolicy.com Monday night that the standard set by Cox a year still stands — the Utah GOP is a QPP and any candidate that qualifies by signatures will be placed on the ballot in 2020.

Brown said he sees no problems now.

“Nothing has changed” in the party’s QPP classification, he told UtahPolicy.com on Monday.

And while as chairman he can’t advocate for any position, it is clear Brown believes the vote in December will remove the old Bylaw 8 amendments, meaning the party won’t try to kick out any candidate who takes the signature-gathering route to the party’s closed June 2020 primary election.

If anything, the vote Saturday — failing to change Bylaw 8 — just postpones the inevitable: In 2020 the Utah Republican Party and the Utah Elections Office will recognize candidates who take the signature-gathering route, and if each individual candidate gets the required number of voter signatures under SB54, they will get on the primary ballot, regardless of whether they attended that year’s delegate conventions, regardless of whether delegates voted them into a primary race.