As recounts are underway in Florida to determine that state’s next U.S. senator and governor, one high-profile Utah election remained too close to call Monday.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams leads incumbent Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, by less than 5,000 votes in the 4th Congressional District, giving the Democratic challenger a margin of just 2.32 percentage points with tens of thousands of votes still uncounted.
But McAdams' lead is — for now — well outside of recount territory. And unlike Florida, where a mandatory recount is triggered when election margins fall within 0.50 percent, a losing candidate in Utah can request a recount only when trailing by 0.25 percentage point or less.
Andrew Roberts, McAdams' campaign manager, said he appreciates the hard work of Utah’s elections officials, and that the campaign is happy with the mayor’s lead and looks forward to updated vote totals Tuesday after the holiday weekend. (In Utah, county clerks' offices were closed Saturday through Monday.)
“We are taking this process one day at a time," Roberts said, “and remain optimistic that the mayor’s lead will hold.”
Roughly 150,000 votes are outstanding in Salt Lake and Utah counties, although it is unclear how many of those votes are in the 4th District, which takes in part of those and two other smaller counties.
Historical trends suggest more than 260,000 have been cast in the Love-McAdams contest and that the margin would need to be less than 700 votes for the losing candidate to request a recount.
“Until we get the final count, we don’t know what the recount margin is,” said Justin Lee, Utah’s election director.
Love cut into McAdams' lead on Friday after an updated count showed the congresswoman improving her performance in Salt Lake County, where the majority of outstanding ballots are located because it is home to most of the district’s voters.
“We’ll see if that’s a trend or an aberration,” said Dave Hansen, Love’s campaign manager. “We’re still optimistic.”
Hansen said the campaign is familiar with the recount requirements and will consider its options when all votes have been tallied.
“Obviously, we’re taking a look at it,” he said.
The 0.25 percent recount threshold was adopted by the state Legislature in 2013. Before that change, a recount was triggered when the margin of victory was less than the equivalent of one vote per voting precinct within the electoral district.
That change came shortly after the 2012 election, when then-Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, defeated Love by 768 votes in the now-congresswoman’s first run for the seat. That was too big a margin to trigger a recount under the old or new rules.
Final certified vote totals will be released by the state Nov. 26.
Clarification: The number of estimated outstanding ballots has been changed from the original to reflect the most recent calculations by Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen.