Celeste Maloy registered as a Utah Republican voter three days after filing to run for Congress. Here’s why it matters.

Maloy’s Utah voter registration was in the process of being removed from state rolls because she hadn’t voted in a Utah election while living in Virginia as a congressional staffer.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Celeste Maloy answers a question during the GOP 2nd district debate, at Woods Cross High School, on Tuesday, June 20, 2023. Maloy updated her voter registration on July 15, three days after she filed to run in Utah's special congressional election.

Celeste Maloy rode her southern Utah connections to a surprising win at Saturday’s Utah Republican convention in Delta, securing the delegate nomination in the 2nd Congressional District special election later this year.

“I think the 2nd District is ready to have a representative who lives off the Wasatch Front and lives in the district,” Maloy said Saturday, shortly after her win over former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes.

However, when Maloy filed earlier this month to run in Utah’s special congressional election, her voter registration was not current, leading Maloy to update her registration as a Utah Republican three days after she filed to run, and a day after the special election filing deadline.

An inactive Utah voter

Until recently, Maloy was a lawyer in Rep. Chris Stewart’s office. Stewart, who announced he would resign his seat in September, endorsed his former staffer in the election to pick his successor.

Maloy’s voter registration was marked inactive in the state’s voter database because she did not cast a ballot in the 2020 and 2022 elections. Her voter registration for the 2018 election, the last one in which she voted, lists her address as a condominium in St. George.

After initially agreeing to an interview request, Maloy and her campaign refused to answer questions from The Salt Lake Tribune for this story.

On Monday, Maloy explained to KSL radio that she did not vote in 2020 or 2022 because she was worried that her absentee ballot might be flagged as fraudulent, which could cause headaches for Stewart. Technically, had she participated in those elections, her absentee ballots would have been fraudulent since she was registered to vote at an address where she no longer lived.

Not only was Maloy on the inactive voter list, but her registration was in the process of being deleted from Utah’s voter rolls. Iron County election officials tell The Tribune that the state regularly submits the list of inactive voters to the National Change of Address (NCOA) database, which is maintained by the United States Postal Service. In January, that database indicated Maloy lived in Virginia, not Utah.

There’s little to no evidence that Maloy has lived in Utah or maintained a residence here since she relocated to Arlington, Virginia, in 2019 to work for Stewart. The St. George address is the only one publicly available before June of this year.

Public databases listed two addresses for Maloy in 2019: The first is in Hiko, Nevada, and the second address is an Arlington, Virginia townhome.

Earlier this month, she updated her voter registration to an address in Cedar City, where her sister lives. However, her sister did not purchase the property until 2020, a year after she relocated to Virginia. Maloy’s campaign would not say where she maintained a residence in the state during that one-year gap.

Whether or not Maloy had a home in Utah may severely undercut her claims, but it does not run afoul of residency rules. The only thing the U.S. Constitution says on the topic is that members of Congress must be a resident of the state when elected.

The timing of Maloy’s updated voter registration raises questions about whether she was eligible to win the delegate vote on Saturday. In short, when is a Republican in Utah not really a Republican?

Utah GOP rules

Maloy filed as a candidate in the election on June 12. Iron County election officials confirmed that Maloy did not update her voter registration to the Cedar City address on June 15, the day after the filing deadline to run in the 2nd District special election.

Here’s why that one-day delay could be significant and upend the GOP primary race.

Utah election law says a person may not “file a declaration of candidacy for a registered political party of which the individual is not a member” unless party rules allow such an exception. The Utah Republican Party Constitution extends membership to “any resident of the State of Utah who registers to vote as a Republican.”

Can Maloy still be considered a Utah Republican, even though her registration as a party member was inactive and at an address where she had not lived for the last four years? Several Republicans who said they have access to party rolls told The Tribune that Maloy’s name did not appear on any database of Republican voters, even ones maintained by the national party, likely because of her inactive status in Utah.

When candidates file with the state, they’re asked if they meet all the requirements to run. Her campaign would not specify when she became aware of the potential issues with her registration.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson’s office did not answer questions from The Tribune about the timing of Maloy’s update to her voter registration status. Henderson posted a Twitter thread Tuesday afternoon noting, “There’s no requirement for a congressional candidate to be a registered voter.”

Even if Utah Republicans somehow decided that she was not a party member, no mechanism exists in party rules to undo Maloy’s convention win. Any objections to Maloy’s candidacy had to be filed before the start of Saturday’s convention, which did not happen. The only objections that can be raised now are over the accuracy of the convention’s vote tally.

And if Republican delegates wanted a do-over for Saturday’s election, there’s no time. Parties have until Tuesday, July 5, to submit one name for the primary ballot.

Utah GOP Chairman Rob Axson withheld any comment on the story until he had a chance to discuss the issue with members of the party’s State Central Committee during a hastily scheduled conference call on Tuesday evening.

Correction, June 28, 8:15 a.m. • The spelling of Celeste Maloy’s name has been corrected in the headline.