What started out as an innocent primary election run against a well entrenched state legislator has lead to Morgan resident Logan Wilde being named as party to a Utah Supreme Court lawsuit. Wilde seemingly won the Republican primary election for Utah House District 53 by a mere nine votes after an official recount, but his opponent filed his objection in court. On Tuesday, the supreme court advised Wilde to lawyer up since he is an interested party in the case and supreme court rulings aren’t subject to appeal.
At Tuesday’s procedural hearing, counsel for the Utah Attorney General, Utah Lieutenant Governor, Summit County, Duchesne County and petitioner Melvin R. Brown were in attendance. Morgan and Rich county clerks are also listed as respondents in the suit labeled a “complaint contesting the results of primary election.”
The state supreme court is putting the suit on a fast track, saying the case must be heard by Sept. 6 in order for the proper candidate—Brown or Wilde—to be placed on the ballot in time for the general election. As such, briefs from the petitioner and seven named respondents are due Friday to be filed with the supreme court.
Once briefs are filed, the state supreme court will decide whether or not the complaint will stay in its purview or be moved to another venue such as district court instead.
In the meantime, Wilde has hired an attorney, which was a “difficult” step for him, and is now in the information gathering mode.
The crux of Brown’s lawsuit hangs on questioned postmarked dates of mail-in ballots, which should be the day before the election. However, in rural areas of the state, it is entirely possible that even though a voter dropped his or her ballot in a mail collection box, even while the post office was still open in the evening, that ballot would not be officially stamped until the next day, Brown said in court documents.
And in this nail-biter of a race, with the win determined by single digits, a few postmarks have the ability to make all the difference. In this suit, Brown is asking the state to open and count 70 ballots with disputed postmark dates.
The suit could have over-reaching ramifications in a state that is just beginning to conduct entire elections by mail.
Brown said in a letter to Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox, that if neglected, the issues “could lead to the disenfranchisement of many rural Utah voters. Technical requirements should not be employed in a manner that unconstitutionally deprives honest voters of their right to vote for the candidate of their choice.”
If Wilde emerges as the primary election winner, his name will be opposite Democratic candidate Cole R. Capener, a Park City resident, on the general election ballot. A primary win for Wilde would be considered by many as a precursor to a second win in November, especially in a district dominated by Republican voters.
If Wilde indeed does take a state legislative seat in January, he will be the first Morgan resident to do so since 1970. It would be quite the accomplishment for Wilde, considering he was up against an incumbent with 23 years of experience in state office.
Brown, the current longest serving House member, has served on the state legislature for 10 years in District 53 and 13 years representing Salt Lake County. In the most recent legislative session, Brown was on committees including the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee as well as the Health and Human Services Interim Committee. A Coalville resident, Brown is also part of a family-owned dairy farm.
Wilde, a Croydon rancher overseeing 17,000 acres, began serving on the Morgan County Council in 2013 while also serving as a Croydon Pipeline company board member and managing partner of M.R. Wilde and Sons. He also served on the Morgan Conservation District and the Utah Conservation Commission as a legislative contact.