A challenger in a disputed Millard County Commission race has asked a judge to hold the county clerk in contempt of court for not abiding by the judge’s order that the county hold a new Republican primary election.
Fourth District Judge Claudia Laycock ordered the county earlier this month to re-do the GOP primary election after seven improperly counted ballots and a voter turned away from the polling place cast doubt on incumbent Jim Withers’ five-vote win over challenger Jim Dyer.
The Attorney General’s office, on behalf of the Lieutenant Governor’s office, which manages state elections, filed an appeal to the Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday. That appeal challenges Laycock’s authority to overturn the election and demand a do-over, and asks the high court to declare Withers the victor.
An attorney for Dyer, meantime, asked Laycock in a filing Tuesday to hold the Millard County Clerk in contempt for failing to take steps to comply with the judge’s order and proceed with the repeat election.
"Because time is of the essence, the Court should require and compel the Millard County Clerk to schedule, organize and hold the new election as ordered," said the motion from Dyer’s lawyers.
"If there is any further delay, and a new election is not held, irreparable harm will occur in terms of depriving the voters of Millard County of the fundamental right to choose their elected leaders by legitimate election," the motion said.
However, state attorneys contend in their filing with the Supreme Court that Laycock overstepped her legal authority in ordering the new election. The lieutenant governor also contends that, because the county clerk was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, the judge did not have the statutory authority to order the clerk to conduct a new election.
"In no event, and under no statute, did Judge Laycock possess the authority to order a special election," wrote Assistant Attorney General Thom Roberts on behalf of Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. "That order exceeds the trial court’s authority and constitutes abuse of discretion instead."
Laycock has until Sept. 3 to respond to the state’s motion, if she chooses to respond. Other parties, including attorneys for Dyer, are expected to seek permission to submit filings in the case, as well.
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