ST. GEORGE, Utah — Candidate Willie Billings has dropped his lawsuit demanding a recount in the incredibly close House District 72 Republican primary race.
Billings lost by 10 votes to Joseph Elison in the GOP primary. He sued the county clerk after a recount was canvassed demanding a hand recount of ballots. Court records show that on Wednesday, his attorneys filed to dismiss the lawsuit.
In a Facebook post published on Wednesday, Billings said that cost of litigation was the factor for it.
"...the cost of proving this in court is huge and the statute saying the Judge shall assign the county’s expenses beyond their legal fees to me, and that cannot be paid out of donations to my campaign means I would owe 10s of thousands of dollars over and above my own legal fees if I were to lose. This is also beyond the risk that I, or most any citizen can afford to take. I have great moral support but very little in the way of donations to fight this battle. The government has a bottomless pit of taxpayer dollars to use against me - and anyone else who is willing to stand up and ask obvious questions," Billings wrote in a public post.
Billings had questioned a statistical sample in an audit performed in the recount. The sample of ballots were weighted toward him, he argued. But the all-Republican Washington County Commission rejected his claims, pointing out the sample was random and the audit was to determine if the vote tabulation machines were working properly (and they concluded they were). They canvassed the recount and defended the audit's accuracy.
"As for fair election practices and responsibility by county officials, there will be much to discuss in the near future. You will be hearing from me, this is not over. Elected officials who have now proven publicly that they are nice during campaign season but arrogant and condescending after they have won have now been publicly identified," Billings wrote.
In a statement on Thursday, Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson said she was pleased to see the lawsuit withdrawn.
"Premised on a flawed analysis that neglected key facts, the lawsuit’s accusations fell flat. Ballots in this election were counted and publicly audited twice. Each audit confirmed the accuracy of the election results," she said.
The lieutenant governor, who is the state's chief elections officer, defended the Washington County Clerk/Auditor and her team and Washington County Commissioners who certified the election "despite political pressure to do otherwise."
"It’s time to turn down the rhetorical heat. If we want to maintain our republic and the freedom we hold dear, we need to reject unfounded accusations and fear-mongering. Undermining our public institutions for personal and political gain serves no noble purpose," Lt. Gov. Henderson said. "Moving forward, I’m hopeful every person who puts their name on a ballot commits to helping instill confidence in our elections whether they win or lose. There is always room for improvement. We’ll work with anyone who engages with us in good faith to bolster security, voter access, and public confidence in our elections."