“10th Circuit Court rules against Utah Republican Party’s attempt to overturn signature-gathering election law”

Salt Lake Tribune:

The Utah Republican Party lost a big legal battle Tuesday in its attempt to overturn a 2014 Utah election law that allows candidates to qualify for the ballot through the caucus-convention system and/or by collecting signatures.

A panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld the law, called SB54, in a 2-1 decision, saying “states must have flexibility to enact reasonable, common-sense regulations designed to provide order and legitimacy to the electoral process.”

Republicans had argued that the law interfered with the party’s constitutional right of association to select nominees as it chooses — and it preferred to use only the traditional caucus-convention system….

Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich, in a scathing dissent, said the law “attempts to change the substance of the Republican Party under the guise of the state’s authority to regulate electoral procedure.”

He compared it to a California case where the state intentionally tried to reshape the party’s message and favor nominees with “moderate positions.”

Utah’s official reasons for imposing the hybrid nominating system “are vague and even impermissible,” Tymkovich wrote.

Describing SB54 as a “collateral attack on party rules,” he warned, “This case should caution us as to the perils of allowing states to impose procedural changes of this magnitude on unwilling political parties … by force of law.”

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