Washington County, which has favored Celeste Maloy in Utah’s 2nd District GOP primary, has an avalanche of ballots left to count

Salt Lake and Washington counties likely will not update their early preliminary return tallies on Wednesday, election officials say.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Celeste Maloy as the Utah Republican Party holds its quarterly State Central Committee meeting in Sandy on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.

Nearly a third of Republican voters in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District live in Washington County. Strong support from those voters was a big reason former congressional staffer and GOP nominee Celeste Maloy has eked out a slim 1,417 vote lead over Becky Edwards in Tuesday’s special congressional primary election, according to early preliminary returns.

That unofficial margin will likely grow in the coming days as an avalanche of ballots in Washington County are tallied by election officials.

County election officials tell The Salt Lake Tribune that more than 12,700 ballots that came into Washington County drop boxes on Tuesday still need to be counted. It’s unknown how many of those ballots are from Republicans voting in the 2nd District race, as Tuesday was also a municipal primary, but Maloy has reason to be optimistic.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Becky Edwards arrives to her watch party for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District GOP primary in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.

According to the early returns, Maloy doubled Edward’s votes in Washington County. Maloy reeled in 44% support, while Edwards was behind Bruce Hough in third place with 22%. If those trends hold, Maloy’s advantage could grow significantly.

The Washington County Clerk’s office said it was unlikely they would release updated results on Wednesday afternoon because of the overwhelming number of outstanding ballots. They are hoping to provide a revised tally on Thursday.

Edwards’ outlook seemed dimmer on Wednesday than it had early Tuesday night.

The former Utah lawmaker was ahead of Maloy and Hough in Davis and Salt Lake Counties, but the number of outstanding ballots seemed unlikely to help her keep pace with Maloy. The Davis County Clerk’s office says there are approximately 2,500 outstanding ballots from the 2nd District, but it is unknown how many are from Republicans.

“We currently are in a very tight race. It is wonderful for every voter in this district to have their vote count in such a consequential way!,” Edward said in a statement to supporters Wednesday, adding that she was honored by Utahns’ votes.

Salt Lake County has approximately 8,000 ballots left to count, but officials say only around 2,600 of those are from the GOP congressional primary. They also don’t expect to release new tallies on Wednesday.

More ballots will trickle in through the mail in the coming days.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bruce Hough attends an election night event in West Valley City, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.

Maloy built her lead by racking up big totals in the rural and southern parts of the state while keeping Edwards from running up the score in the more urban parts of the district. As of Tuesday evening, Maloy was ahead in 10 of 13 counties.

Southern Utah voters were seemingly unfazed by the controversy surrounding Maloy’s claim to be a resident of southern Utah, even though she had only recently moved back after spending four years living in Virginia while she was a staffer in Rep. Chris Stewart’s office in Washington, D.C.

“The race is still too close to call. While we don’t know the final outcome, we know we have the momentum and are feeling very optimistic. As we predicted, southern and rural Utah came in strong,” Maloy said in a statement late Tuesday night.

Maloy has received more than 50% support in eight of 13 counties that are at least partially in the 2nd District, and soaring to more than 70% in Beaver, Garfield and Piute counties, according to early returns.

So far, Edwards has notched a strong showing in Salt Lake and Davis Counties, receiving 61% and 49% support. Maloy has received 30% of the vote in Davis County and 19% in Salt Lake, which helped to limit Edwards’ lead in those areas.