GOVERNMENT

Jan Garbett files appeal to lower number of required signatures for primary ballot

May 1, 2020, 3:19 PM | Updated: Jun 24, 2020, 3:34 pm
Garbett appeal...
GOP gubernatorial candidate Jan Garbett is filing an appeal to lower the number of signatures required to get on the primary ballot, arguing a recent ruling from a federal judge wasn't enough. (KSL.com)
(KSL.com)

SALT LAKE CITY — GOP gubernatorial candidate Jan Garbett filed an appeal to lower the number of signatures required to get on the primary ballot in Utah, arguing a recent ruling from a federal judge does not go far enough.

If successful, Garbett will appear on the ballot in June — becoming the first GOP female candidate to appear on a primary ballot for governor. The late Olene Walker, who served as governor between 2003 and 2005, never faced a primary because she succeeded former Gov. Mike Leavitt, who left office to head up President George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency. 

Garbett appeal to get on the primary ballot

Garbett sued the state after the lieutenant’s governor’s office rejected her signatures, as they were under the 28,000 requirement to appear on the ballot. She argued the state’s directives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic restricted her ability to gather the signatures, as campaign volunteers could no longer go door-to-door. 

In response, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled the state can lower the signature threshold to 19,040 — roughly 70% of the original requirement. Shelby also extended the deadline to May 6. 

Despite the extension and reduction of signatures, Garbett filed an appeal to bring the situation back to court — arguing the judge didn’t fix the “unconstitutional burden” in the gathering process. 

“Every other court in the United States that has dealt with this issue has lowered the number of signatures required in light of COVID-19 by far greater percentages,” Garbett said in a statement. “One state lowered this to 10% of normal, and no other state went above 50%. And remember, these are states where my signature total would already qualify me to be on the ballot.”

More candidates suing to get on the primary ballot

This comes after Jeff Burningham, another hopeful GOP candidate for governor, announced he would sue the state to get his name on the primary ballot. Similar to Garbett, he argues the state’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive severely impaired the ability to gather enough signatures. 

Burningham reports collecting 19,150 signatures before the requirement was changed — asking to be placed on the ballot if 70% of those (13,405) are deemed to be valid. 

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., whose name will appear on the primary ballot after gathering the required 28,000 signatures, lent his voice to both candidates’ fight. Hunstman argues that both Burningham and candidate Aimee Winder Newton should both be on the ballot, despite failing to meet the “crazy system of signatures.”

As the race stands, four candidates will appear on the Republican primary ballot for governor: Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Huntsman, Thomas Wright and Greg Hughes. 

All the candidates qualified through signature-gathering, except for Hughes, who received one of the top two majority votes during the party’s convention. 

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Jan Garbett files appeal to lower number of required signatures for primary ballot