This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune. Read it in its entirety here.
Several right-wing politicians and groups are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to accept a last-ditch appeal from the Utah Republican Party seeking to overturn a 2014 state election law that allows candidates to qualify for the ballot through the caucus-convention system and/or by collecting signatures.
In friend-of-the-court briefs, they argue that the law, called SB54, infringes on the party’s constitutional right of association by not allowing it to select nominees as it chooses.
Among others, those filing briefs include the Eagle Forum; 19 current and former members of the Utah Legislature, including some who voted for SB54; Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, with Reps. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Raul Labrador, R-Idaho; and a group of minor parties.
SB54 was a compromise to stop a ballot initiative that seemed poised to scrap the traditional caucus-convention system and replace it with a direct primary. Count My Vote, which pushed the initiative, said the caucus system tends to give extremists in parties extra power and helps nominate people outside the political mainstream.
Lee, Cruz, Bishop and Labrador argue in their brief that the law “strips core party activists of their ability to select nominees who are loyal to the party platform.”
They add, “When the state manipulates the nomination process to stack the deck in favor of some types of candidates it both undermines parties’ associational rights and denies voters a genuine electoral choice.”
(Lee’s ouster of three-term Sen. Bob Bennett in the 2010 Republican convention was one of the things motivating SB54 supporters.)
The left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah on Wednesday criticized Lee and Bishop for joining in that brief.
“It is extremely disappointing that Sen. Lee and Rep. Bishop have chosen to side with a small group of extreme party delegates that have been attempting to control the political process in Utah, rather than supporting their constituents’ desires,” the alliance said in a prepared statement. “It is especially ironic that Lee, an aggressive advocate of the 10th Amendment, is now asking the Supreme Court to dictate how a state can run its elections.”