Washington • If Provo Mayor John Curtis wins Utah’s special congressional election next week, as polling suggests, he could be swiftly sworn into office before the official canvass of the vote takes place three weeks later.
Utah election officials plan to send the unofficial returns to the House clerk in the days after Tuesday’s vote, allowing the chamber to immediately fill the vacancy left by former Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
“They’re eager to swear someone in as quickly as possible,” state elections director Mark Thomas said Friday. “If there’s a clear winner and it’s not likely any additional ballots are going to change the outcome, it sounds like they are willing and ready and wanting to swear in that person.”
While the House typically waits for the official papers from the state where a vacancy is being filled, the chamber could use a procedural vote to override that requirement, and the new member could take office as soon as he or she can get to the House floor.
Thomas says he’s alerted the candidates for the 3rd Congressional District of that possibility and noted that it’s not unusual for the member-elect to be sworn in within a week. If the results are close or contested, that could hold up the transition.
With a likely vote this month on Republican efforts to overhaul the tax code, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., could be eager to add one more vote in favor of the legislation. Curtis, a Republican, says he supports the bill.
The major candidates in Tuesday’s election to fill Chaffetz’s seat are Curtis, Democrat Kathie Allen and the United Utah Party’s Jim Bennett.
A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll in early October showed Curtis with 46 percent of the vote, compared to 19 percent for Allen and 9 percent for Bennett. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.84 percentage points.
Curtis says he’s been in contact with Ryan’s office and expects that the seat would be filled within a week or so, though he noted that decision remains with state election officials and the speaker.
“They’re ready to roll on their end,” Curtis said Friday. “My calendar is clear if they’re ready.”
Asked about swearing in the new member before the canvass, Allen said she’s “ready.”
Her spokesman, Daniel Friend, said that Allen would support a quick swearing-in for the new member even if she isn’t victorious.
“What’s fair for one is fair for everyone,” Friend said.
Bennett, too, says he backs a speedy effort to fill the seat.
“The office has been vacant for far too long,” he said Friday. “I think they should swear in the new member as quickly as possible.”
For his part, Chaffetz, a Republican who resigned his office June 30 and is now a Fox News contributor, says it’s typical for a seat to be filled rather quickly after a special election. He’s backing Curtis in the race.
“I don’t think it’ll be very close,” Chaffetz said. “If it’s decisive, [Curtis] should be sworn in as quickly as possible.”