Articles Posted in Election Law

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Melvin Brown, who lost his Republic Primary election for the Utah House of Representatives by nine votes, contested the results of the primary election under Utah Code 20A-4-403(2) - Utah’s election contest statute - arguing that certain ballots were improperly disqualified. Logan Wilde, the winner of the primary election, argued that the election contest statute is an unconstitutional expansion of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction. The Supreme Court agreed and issued a per curiam order holding that Utah Code 20A-4-403(2)(a)(ii), which purports to provide the Supreme Court with original jurisdiction over multi-county election contests, was unconstitutional. The Court then issued this opinion to more fully explain the basis for the order, holding that section 20A-4-403(2)(a)(ii) cannot extend the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to adjudicate multi-county election disputes, and that provision of the elections code is struck as unconstitutional. View "Brown v. Cox" on Justia Law

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Residents of Orem City and Provo City (collectively, Petitioners) sought to have a referendum placed on the November 2017 ballot. Both Orem City and Provo City refused, concluding that the resolutions could not be referred to the voters as a matter of law. Petitioners sought an extraordinary writ ordering that the referenda be placed on the ballot and filed their petitions in accordance with Utah Code 20A-7-607(4)(a). The Supreme Court denied the petitions without prejudice, holding that Petitioners failed to carry their burden of establishing under Utah R. App. P. 19(b)(4)-(5) that it would be impractical or inappropriate for them to file their petitions in the district court. View "Anderson v. Provo City" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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The United States District Court for the District of Utah certified questions of law to the Supreme Court regarding Qualified Political Parties (QPP). The first question asked whether Utah law requires that a QPP permit its members to seek its nomination by either or both of the methods set forth in Utah Code 20A-9-407 and 20A-9-408 or whether a QPP may preclude a member from seeking the party’s nomination by gathering signatures under section 20A-9-408. The second question asked whether the Lieutenant Governor must treat a registered political party (RPP) that has selected to be designated as a QPP as a RPP under Utah law. The Supreme Court answered (1) Utah Code 20A-9-101 requires that QPP party members may choose the method of candidacy qualification; and (2) the certified question regarding the Lieutenant Governor’s obligations is hypothetical and not ripe for decision. View "Utah Republican Party v. Cox" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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Petitioners, as members of Utah Term Limits NOW!, sponsored an initiative application in which Petitioners sought to initiate legislation imposing term limits on persons appointed by the Governor to state boards and commissions. The Lieutenant Governor rejected the initiative application. Petitioners filed a petition for extraordinary writ asking the Supreme Court to compel the Lieutenant Governor to rescind and withdraw his rejection of Petitioners’ application. After filing their petition, Petitioners ceased efforts to place the proposed initiative on the ballot. Thereafter, the Lieutenant Governor filed a suggestion of mootness. In response, Petitioners asked the Court to resolve the issues based on the “public interest” exception to the mootness doctrine. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition for extraordinary writ as moot and held that the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine did not apply in this case. View "Poulton v. Cox" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, four of the prospective sponsors of a proposed referendum petition, asserted that they prepared and attempted to submit a referendum application but were denied the opportunity based on Utah Code 20A-7-302, which states that “persons wishing to circulate a referendum petition shall file an application with the lieutenant governor within five calendar days after the end of the legislative session at which the law passed.” The petition implied that the five-day deadline is unconstitutional because referenda sponsors, as a practical matter, cannot comply. The Supreme Court declined to grant the requested relief, holding that even if the Court accepted the petition’s factual allegations, Petitioners failed to provide the Court with a sound basis for declaring Utah Code 20A-7-302 unconstitutional on its face or as applied to the facts they alleged. View "Gricius v. Cox" on Justia Law

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In 2014, the City of Draper passed and adopted a Resolution that levied a tax on property located within the Traverse Ridge Special Service District. Petitioners, five residents, collected certified voter signatures and asked the City to refer the Resolution to voters of the District. The City rejected the referendum petition, asserting that the tax levy was a nonreferable administrative action. Petitioners filed a petition for writ of extraordinary relief. The Supreme Court granted the relief sought, holding (1) the Resolution was properly referable to the voters because it was legislative in nature; and (2) the City’s constitutional challenge to the subjurisdictional referendum statute failed. View "Mawhinney v. Draper City" on Justia Law

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Petitioners obtained sufficient signatures to challenge a proposed tax increase approved by the Orem City Council via a referendum petition. The referendum petition was scheduled to go to a vote in the November 2013 election. In November 2012, the city attorney filed a final ballot title with the city recorder. Dissatisfied with the chosen language for the ballot title, Petitioners filed a petition for extraordinary relief, challenging the wording. The Supreme Court held that the city attorney did not abuse his discretion in drafting the proposed ballot title and that the proposed wording satisfied the statutory direction that the title be an impartial and true statement of the purpose of the measure. View "Burr v. City of Orem" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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A group called Move to Amend Salt Lake submitted a petition for certification of an initiative petition for placement on the local election ballot. Salt Lake City informed Move to Amend that their petition would not be placed on the ballot because it did not qualify as a proper initiative. Plaintiff, a registered voter in the City, filed a petition for extraordinary relief, asking the Supreme Court to compel the City Recorder to place the initiative on the City's November 2012 ballot, and to declare that the power of popular initiative encompasses initiatives that are purely advisory. The Supreme Court denied the petition for extraordinary relief, holding that the power of popular initiative in Utah does not encompass initiatives that are purely advisory. View "Proulx v. Salt Lake City Recorder" on Justia Law

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Utahns for Ethical Government (UEG), a Utah political action committee, advanced a petition for an initiative to be included in the 2010 statewide general election. Ultimately, UEG's efforts to qualify for the 2010 ballot were unsuccessful. Yet UEG continued collecting additional signatures thereafter, using the same petition targeting 2010. The lieutenant governor subsequently determined that UEG's initiative did not qualify for the 2012 ballot, reasoning that the initiative petition it advanced applied only to the 2010 ballot. UEG then filed suit, seeking a court order compelling placement of its proposed initiative on the 2012 ballot. After UEG's efforts at the district court proved unsuccessful, UEG appealed and petitioned the Supreme Court for extraordinary relief. The Supreme Court denied UEG the relief it sought, holding that UEG was not entitled to have its initiative included on the 2012 ballot because it did not meet its burden of demonstrating that its initiative qualified for the 2012 ballot. View "Utahns for Ethical Gov't v. Bell" on Justia Law

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Stephen Maxfield challenged the results of the 2010 gubernatorial election under Utah's election-contest statute, asking the district court to declare him and his running mate the lieutenant governor and governor of Utah, respectively. The court dismissed the petition, concluding that the statutory grounds for an election contest did not encompass Maxfield's claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in disposing of the case by deciding Herbert's timely-filed Rule 12(b)(6) motion; (2) the nature of the hearing held in district court was appropriate, and Maxwell's right to a timely hearing was waived; and (3) the district court did not err in refusing to allow Maxfield to bring an election contest based on allegations of campaign finance violations. View "Maxfield v. Herbert" on Justia Law