Utah GOP nominee Colby Jenkins sues election official in close 2nd Congressional District primary

Narrowly behind incumbent Rep. Celeste Maloy in the Republican primary election, Jenkins wants access to uncured votes in Washington County.

Trailing by just over 300 votes, Utah Republican congressional candidate Colby Jenkins filed a lawsuit in state court on Friday asking a judge to order the Washington County clerk to provide his campaign with a list of voters whose ballots had been submitted but disqualified from being counted.

Attorneys for Jenkins — who was nominated by GOP delegates and has been nipping at the heels of incumbent U.S. Rep. Celeste Maloy since the first votes were reported last Tuesday night — said that the Salt Lake County clerk’s office provided their “cure” list, containing the names of voters whose ballots were not counted, often because the signatures do not match the signatures the clerk has on file.

Under state law, voters are notified when their ballots are set aside and they are given a period of time to “cure” the error.

Having the list of names would enable Jenkins’ campaign to contact those voters and make sure their votes count.

But Washington County Clerk Ryan Sullivan refused to release the list. In a brief response to Jenkins’ lawsuit, Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke said that Jenkins’ lawsuit is based on a “misinterpretation” of the state election code and that the clerk has the discretion to release the list or not.

Judge Jay Winward has scheduled a hearing on Jenkins’ request for Monday, July 8 at 9 a.m. in Fifth District Court in St. George.

July 9 is the last day for voters to cure, or remedy any problems, with their ballots and for counties to finish counting votes.

According to the clerk’s office, there were 531 rejected ballots as of Wednesday. The figures were not updated on the July 4th holiday and had not been updated as of Friday afternoon.

There is good reason for Jenkins to focus on making sure votes are counted in Washington County.

While Maloy has beaten Jenkins in 10 of the 13 counties in the district, Jenkins holds a commanding 59% to 41% edge in Washington County. The southern Utah county is one of the few areas where enough votes may remain for him to overcome his deficit (although he would need to win about 80% of the 531 rejected votes).

Maloy, who was backed by former President Donald Trump for reelection, led Jenkins by 314 votes — up from 295 when Jenkins filed his lawsuit — according to unofficial returns on Friday afternoon. Of the 106,902 ballots that had been counted as of Friday, Maloy has received 53,608 — meaning she led by only 0.294 percentage points.

Maloy’s lead has dwindled since late on the evening of June 25 when her lead was 3.64 percentage points ahead of Jenkins.

A losing congressional candidate in a tight race can also ask for a recount under certain conditions.

According to state law, a losing candidate can request a recount if they are within 0.25% of the winner in the race. The losing candidates has seven days from the close of Utah’s state canvas to request that recount.

After counties finish counting votes on July 9, the statewide canvass will be conducted July 22. The deadline for a losing candidate to request a recount is 5 p.m. on July 29, the lieutenant governor’s office confirmed.

Correction, 6:10 p.m. • This story now reflects the correct date of the Jenkins’ legal court hearing.

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