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Salt Lake County mayor ballots trickle in; official canvass is Tuesday

Published July 6, 2012 9:41 am

Politics • GOP primary still undecided as late votes counted in mayoral contest.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One more vote-by-mail ballot arrived Tuesday — a week after the primary election — at the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office.

Will it affect the outcome of the Republican mayoral primary between Mark Crockett and Mike Winder?

The candidates have to wait until Tuesday's official canvass by the Salt Lake County Council to find out whether it and nearly 8,000 other ballots counted after the polls closed June 26 will change the outcome of Crockett's apparent win — by a slim 239 votes.

On the Wednesday after the primary, County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said 7,908 ballots had to be certified and tabulated, a laborious task for her clerks as they verified that provisional, absentee and mail-in votes were valid.

That total included 4,015 dropped off at polling places on Election Day. On Thursday, two days after the primary, 88 more ballots arrived. One day later, another 46 came in the mail.

But after the weekend, the number dropped to 10 on Monday, then one on Tuesday.

"Although the number of ballots coming in has dwindled to nothing," Swensen said, "the law allows for us to count ballots received by noon on the day of the canvass" as long as they are postmarked by the deadline.

While her staff has been verifying the validity of these ballots under the watchful eyes of representatives from both candidates' campaigns — "they're welcome to observe," Swensen said — it also has audited the performance of 1 percent of electronic voting machines from polling places.

The Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office, which oversees elections, gives the county clerk a random list of machines to check.

"We pulled canisters from the machines, unspooled the paper trail of individual votes and compared the results to the machine's memory card," Swensen said, adding that there were no discrepancies.

On the day of the canvass, she noted, if the 8,000 additional ballots still result in a margin of victory that is fewer than 724 votes (one for each voting precinct in Salt Lake County), the loser can request a recount (a likely scenario either way).

Swensen's office also will be sending letters of explanation to a small number of people whose ballots were determined to be invalid.

Usually that's because voters forget to sign an affidavit or spouses accidentally sign each other's ballot. But every so often, she said, "we get ballots from previous elections."

Unlike general elections, primaries do not allow voters to pencil in the name of a write-in candidate, Swensen said. "They couldn't even do that on electronic machines, which weren't even set up for a write-in."

So there's no way to know whether any cynical Republicans were tempted to vote for Richard Burwash, a pen name used by Winder in newspaper articles promoting West Valley City, where he is mayor. The winner of the GOP primary will face state Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, in November.

mikeg@sltrib.comTwitter: @sltribmikeg —

Mayoral primary

The Salt Lake County Council will conduct the official canvass of the Republican primary on Tuesday, including almost 8,000 votes not tabulated on Election Day, when Mark Crockett held a 239-vote lead over Mike Winder. Here are the unofficial results as of election night:

Candidate Votes % of vote

Mark Crockett 34,481 50.2%

Mike Winder 34,242 49.8%