Seven votes decide southern Utah House Republican primary race

The losing candidate in Utah House District 72 has already announced his intent to seek a recount.

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune The State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, Friday, February 28, 2014.

Just seven votes decided the race for the Republican nomination in Utah House District 72. And the losing candidate has already signaled he’s requesting a recount.

In Washington County’s official election results, posted online Tuesday afternoon, Joseph Elison appears to have narrowly defeated Willie Billings. Elison earned 4,131 votes, or 50.04% of the vote, to Billings’ 4,124 votes, or 49.96% of the total.

Because the two are separated by .08%, Billings is within the margin to request a recount. Utah code allows the losing candidate to file for a recount if the margin is within .25%.

Billings is already pursuing a recount in the election, according to a social media post.

Just after 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Billings posted a photo on Facebook showing a letter he intended to send to the Washington County Clerk/Auditor’s Office and the county’s commissioners.

“We need thousands and thousands of citizens to impress upon our elected officials the importance of ensuring the accuracy of our elections,” Billings wrote in the Facebook post.

In the letter, addressed to Washington County Clerk Susan Lewis, Billings requested a recount, adding “manual by hand is preferred.” Billings emphasized the need for a recount by hand, citing “the lack of confidence by the vast majority of voters in our voting jurisdiction.”

“I know you believe the machines are accurate and I tend to agree with you but this is not about us,” Billings wrote in the letter. “It doesn’t matter what we think. It’s all about our community.”

Messages to Billings or Elison for comment were not returned as of Tuesday evening.

Melanie Abplanalp, Washington County’s elections supervisor, said Tuesday that the race is among the tightest that she’s seen. Abplanalp said the election was certified around 4:30 p.m., and she said she’s waiting for official word that Billings had filed his recount request.

Abplanalp wasn’t sure when the recount could be finished but said the county will soon begin its recount process.

“I think we’re in a good place,” she said Tuesday.

Both Billings and Elison were vying to be the district’s new representative. Rep. Rex Shipp, the area’s current legislator, is running for House District 71 due to redistricting.