Utah Republican Party v. Cox, No. 16-4091 (10th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
At issue here was Utah State Bill SB54, the Utah Elections Amendments Act of 2014 (“SB54”) which reorganized the process for qualifying for a primary ballot in Utah, most importantly, by providing an alternative signature-gathering path to the primary election ballot for candidates who were unable or unwilling to gain approval from the central party nominating conventions. Prior to the passage of SB54, the Utah Republican Party (“URP”) selected its candidates for primary elections exclusively through its state nominating convention, and preferred to keep that process. In this litigation, the URP sued Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox in his official capacity (“the State”), alleging that two aspects of SB54 violated the URP’s freedom of association under the First Amendment, as applied to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. The two challenged sections: (1) required parties to allow candidates to qualify for the primary ballot through either the nominating convention or by gathering signatures, or both (the “Either or Both Provision”); and (2) required candidates pursuing the primary ballot in State House and State Senate elections through a signature gathering method to collect a set number of signatures (the “Signature Requirement”). In two separate orders, the United States District Court for the District of Utah balanced the URP’s First Amendment right of association against the State’s interest in managing and regulating elections, and rejected the URP’s claims. Re-conducting that balancing de novo on appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on June 8, 2018.