Gehrke: What?! Utah County’s election office messed up? No way!

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune The Salt Lake Tribune staff portraits. Robert Gehrke.

Like a lot of you, I read Paul Rolly’s columns for most of my life. He was a fixture at The Salt Lake Tribune and brought readers insight from his tremendous sourcing and a sardonic tone that made his work a joy to read.

Last week, when it was clear The Trib was going to have cutbacks and layoffs, Paul stepped up and took retirement to save the jobs of young reporters who had their careers ahead of them.

Now, I can’t truly replicate Rolly’s style, nor can I fill his shoes, but I offer today’s column as an homage to one of the greats. Godspeed, Paul.


When the lieutenant governor’s office started reviewing the Count My Vote initiative petitions that had been processed and submitted by the Utah County Clerk’s office, it noticed something strange. The clerk’s office — for reasons that are still unclear — completely failed to count 105 petition packets. They were sent back to the county with directions to tally the signatures, pronto.

It could make a difference of several thousand signatures for Count My Vote proponents and, with the campaign by Keep My Voice to get enough people to withdraw their signatures, make the difference between Count My Vote being on the ballot and not.

Seems surprising, right? It’s really not. It’s par for the course from Utah County, which routinely botches election issues. Here are just a few of the greatest misses from the past few years:

• In the special election to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz last year, Utah County sent the wrong mail-in ballots to 68,000 voters.

• In 2008, the county demoted its elections director because there were widespread confusion and delays after the clerk’s office consolidated polling locations but didn’t adequately notify voters.

• In 2010, nine voting machines were left unsecured in the lobby of a polling place. The machines are supposed to be under lock and key to ensure they aren’t tampered with.

• In 2013, Clerk Bryan Thompson refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples, even after the courts declared such marriages legal.

• In 2009, officials from the clerk’s office informed Rep. Craig Frank that a home he was building in Cedar Hills was inside the House district he represented at the time. But they had the wrong map and Frank had to resign from the Legislature because he lived outside the district. He was replaced in a special election.

• In the 2010 election, polling places had to stay open until 10 p.m. because of the long lines of people waiting to cast ballots.

A footnote to all of this. The longtime county clerk, Thompson, was defeated at the recent Utah County Republican convention and won’t be eligible for re-election in November.

Degrees of accuracy

Phill Wright has been one of the leading crusaders for keeping the power to nominate candidates in the hands of delegates at party conventions, fighting tooth and nail against the Count My Vote primary election structure.

This year, Wright is running for the state House from Bountiful’s District 19 and at the Davis County Republican Convention forced incumbent Rep. Ray Ward to a primary.

Wright, according to his LinkedIn page, is the vice president for government affairs for Entrata, the software company owned by Dave Bateman, who has bankrolled the anti-Count My Vote efforts.

Further down that page, Wright lists that he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies from Brigham Young University in 1985. Problem is, I contacted the BYU registrar’s office and its staff say there’s no record of anyone with Wright’s name and birthday ever graduating from the school.

In his bio for the Davis County Republican Party, where he served a tumultuous term as chairman, Wright said he and his wife had their first child “after finishing his studies at BYU in 1985.” Which, I suppose, is at least technically accurate.

I tried to contact Wright to ask him about the discrepancy, but he didn’t return my call.

Ward is a physician who got his medical degree from the University of Washington.

Mark your calendars

Invitations are out for the attorney general’s fourth annual Law Day event on May 31. Headlining the event is Sean Reyes’ frequent collaborator, Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Rescue, which combats sex trafficking.

It is a cleverly packaged fundraiser for the Reyes campaign and, unlike most fundraisers, attorneys who pony up for a ticket — which costs from $150 per person to $5,000 for sponsors — can get an hour-and-a-half credit toward their Continuing Legal Education requirements.

An organizer said the admission covers the costs of the event and pays for a speaker and a charitable contribution. The rest goes to the Reyes campaign.

Last year, Reyes paid about $20,000 to rent the Grand America. He paid $2,500 to the speaker, Yusef Salaam, one of the Brooklyn Five who were wrongly accused of rape, and $5,000 in a donation to the Rocky Mountain Innocence Project.

The organizer said former Attorney General Jan Graham held similar events, as did her successor, Mark Shurtleff.