37,000 uncounted votes could change some Utah races

Posted at 9:01 PM, Nov 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-06 12:45:42-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Election officials are counting tens of thousands of provisional, absentee and mail-in ballots in districts that could swing entire races.

It's a by-product of new programs launched to increase voter participation in elections that typically draw fewer voters. In Salt Lake and Davis counties, more than 37,000 votes remain uncounted and some races are separated by as few as two votes.

Davis County is among 10 counties that mailed ballots to registered voters this year to increase participation. Election Manager Brian McKenzie told FOX 13 it worked -- they got 48 percent voter turnout when they were only expecting 30 percent.

"We have tens of thousands of ballots that came in through the by-mail process," he said.

Last minute mail-in ballots have flooded the Davis County Clerk-Auditor's Office. The Lt. Governor's Office told FOX 13 that 17,000 ballots still need to be counted in Davis County that could decide some close races for school board and a parks and recreation bond in Farmington.

"The Farmington bond is only within two votes now," said McKenzie.

But Utah law only allows for the results of those ballots to be revealed when all elections are canvassed. To get the results out faster, Davis County moved up its canvassing to Tuesday.

Salt Lake County participated in a pilot project allowing same-day voter registration: people could register and vote a provisional ballot on Election Day. As a result, there are more than 20,000 provisional, mail-in and absentee ballots that have yet to be counted in Salt Lake County.

Election officials began counting provisional ballots on Wednesday, a painstaking effort that could take up to two weeks to complete. Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen told FOX 13 that the 20,000 votes could swing some legislative races.

"Oh yeah, we have some tight races!" she said. "We have House District 30, 31, 44 and a Murray School Board race that are pretty tight right now."

  • In House District 30, Democratic candidate Michael D. Lee has a 108 vote lead over Republican Fred Cox;
  • There's only a 37 vote difference in the race between Democrat Larry Wiley and Republican Sophia DiCaro in House District 31;
  • House District 44 has Democrat Christine Passey leading Republican Bruce Cutler by 152 votes;
  • Murray School board candidates Kami Anderson has a 37 vote lead over Richard Clark.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox said he was pleased with the mail-in and same-day election programs, but planned to ask the legislature to make some minor changes. Cox said he wanted to make it so results from provisional and mail-in ballots could be publicized as soon as they are tabulated, rather than waiting for canvassing.

He also said he would like to see only two weeks for people to mail-in ballots instead of an entire month. The Lt. Governor told FOX 13 that some voters complained after watching the debates and changing their minds on a candidate -- only to have already mailed in their ballots.