COURTS & LEGAL

Former President Trump won’t be removed from the primary election ballot in Utah — here’s why

Dec 20, 2023, 5:06 PM | Updated: 5:24 pm

SALT LAKE CITY With news of the Colorado Supreme Court ruling to bar former President Donald Trump from the primary ballot rippling across the country, state leaders in Utah say the primary election here won’t have that issue.

That’s because there is no presidential primary for Republicans in Utah in 2024. In Utah it’s political parties who decide whether they participate in a presidential primary, or they can choose to hold a caucus.

Republicans have opted for a presidential preference poll at caucus night Tuesday, March 5, 2024. There’s no chance that Trump will be removed from that.

“Since it’s an internal process … there’s no standing that somebody could claim that he needs to be disqualified or anything else,” Utah GOP Chair Rob Axson said. “We look forward to having a very vigorous debate among a bunch of good Republican candidates. And we’ll see who Utahns decide to select as our preferred candidate.”

Utah’s GOP argues that the caucus night and primary preference poll is a better option than a primary to allow for people to get together and connect at their local precincts. They also say it increases caucus turnout and incentivizes presidential candidates to come to Utah to earn support.

But Count My Vote, the group responsible for the decade-old compromise allowing candidates to gather signatures to get on the ballot, argues that decision to hold caucuses has no oversight.

“I mean, this is just trusting the party fully to execute the election — making sure there’s no fraud, making sure that they’re running it, making sure that are counting it appropriately,” said David May, state director of County My Vote and a partner at Morgan May Public Affairs. May also argues this disenfranchises voters.

“When they have to get time off work or when they find childcare, they just don’t have to show up to these to these caucus nights. They just don’t,” he said.

Axson promised transparency.

“It’s going to be transparent; it will be verifiable; it will be auditable. So, we’re very confident in the accuracy of that presidential preference poll,” he said.

He added that voters will be able to vote absentee by having a spouse, neighbor, or precinct chair submit a vote for someone who cannot attend.

“Obviously, it’s easy to have a husband take in his wife’s ballot or vice versa. But you know, your neighbor, she may be homebound or he may be elderly and unable to attend for whatever reason. You can go and you can get his ballot, bring it in on his or her behalf, and then their votes would still be counted,” Axson said.

“There will be an official ballot that will be easy to print off. And there would be a credentialing process where we verify the individual. But all of that will be explained as we get a little bit closer,” he said.

Still, the Colorado Supreme Court decision on keeping Trump off the ballot could impact the November general election. Utah’s Lt. Gov. Diedre Henderson, addressed that in a video she posted to social media.

“All political parties are required by August 31 to certify the names of their nominees for president and vice president to the lieutenant governor. But that’s, you know, many, many months in the future,” she said. “And I assume by then we’ll have more clarity on this issue.”

For now, Utah Republicans are pushing for turnout at those caucuses — and arguing that Trump should stay on the ballot.

“President Trump has not been ruled and adjudicated and found guilty of accusations that have been levied against him. So punishing him for accusations does not seem to be the right approach,” Axson said.

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Former President Trump won’t be removed from the primary election ballot in Utah — here’s why