Federal ruling could return Utah GOP candidate to ballot

After being dismissed in the U.S. District Court, GOP candidate Jan Garbett is now asking that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver hear her case concerning access to the June primary ballot via voter signature gathering.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal judge reduced the number of voter signatures required to join a Utah primary ballot, giving a Republican gubernatorial candidate a second chance to compete in the race.

Businesswoman Jan Garbett sued the state after her attempt to turn in fewer than the required 28,000 signatures was rejected by the lieutenant governor’s office.

The lawsuit cited the impact of restrictions on voter contact put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic on Garbett’s ability to meet the mid-April deadline.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby Monday lowered the threshold to 19,040 signatures and required the state to accept and verify the signatures collected by Garbett’s campaign.

Garbett campaign spokesman Daniel Friend declined to comment on the ruling.

“We have turned in our signatures and we are hoping for the best,” Friend said.

Justin Lee, director of elections in the lieutenant governor’s office, said the state will work to confirm Garbett’s submitted signatures by May 6 at the latest.

In her lawsuit and during oral arguments Monday, Garbett’s attorneys argued that if not for the “unprecedented limitations” the state imposed in response to the coronavirus, Garbett would have met the signature threshold.

The state has issued a stay-at-home directive and prohibitions on public gatherings, where candidates typically gather large numbers of signatures.

The state argued in response that Garbett was not entitled to be on the ballot, since gathering signatures was one of two ways to place her name before voters in the Republican primary.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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