SALT LAKE CITY – With the state being sued over legislation that made changes in how candidates can be selected, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has recused himself from taking part in the defense of the new law.
Earlier this month, the Utah Republican Party announced it was suing the state over House Bill 54, also known as the Count My Vote compromise bill. The bill offers potential candidates an alternative path to the ballot by gathering signatures rather than going through the caucus-convention process.
Leaders of the Utah Republican Party have said the legislation violates the party’s constitutional rights and the state doesn’t have the authority to tell a political party how to choose its candidates.
Though a Republican himself, Reyes said in an interview with St. George News in March that if the party sued the state, he would do his job regardless.
“The irony here is many people throughout the state know I am one of the strongest supporters of the caucus-convention system,” Reyes said. “If the party sues the state, the one defending that (law) will be me.”
However, Reyes released a statement Friday saying he was removing himself from the matter in order to avoid any potential conflicts. According to the statement:
Understanding it is not a perfect system, I have always expressed my support for Utah’s caucus and convention system. That alone would not necessitate my recusal on this case because a mere philosophical difference would never prevent me from fulfilling my duty. However, because I am an elected member of the governing body of the Plaintiff (The Utah Republican Party), and have contributed money to organizations, including the Party, in support of the caucus and convention system, I feel it is best to recuse myself from this case. My recusal will not impact the legal process or the AGO’s defense of SB 54. Some of our office’s most capable and experienced attorneys will be involved in defending the law.
HB 54 was an answer to the Count My Vote ballot initiative, which sought to do away with the state’s caucus-convention system entirely and replace it with a direct primary.
The compromise legislation was struck between members of the Legislature and Count My Vote officials, preserving the caucus-convention system and bringing an end to the ballot initiative. In exchange, it allows potential candidates a to bypass the caucus-convention system.
The initiative was backed by former Utah Govs. Michael Leavitt and Olene Walker and was also supported locally by Rep. David Clark, each members of the Republican Party.
The legislation takes effect in January.
- Utah GOP suing state over ‘Count My Vote’ legislation
- Governor signs ‘Count My Vote’ compromise bill into law
- ‘Count My Vote’ bill passes state house, senate, heads to governor
- On the EDge: Count My Vote? Please
- Caucus, direct primary compromise bill passes committee
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