Iron County certifies 2024 primary election results despite controversy over ballot postmarks

‘This sucks,” Commissioner Mike Bleak said after exhausting efforts to count approximately 400 ballots with postmarks past Utah’s legal deadline.

After 24 hours of handwringing and investigating if hundreds of Utahns’ mail-in ballots with late postmarks could be counted, the Iron County Commission voted 2-1 on Tuesday to officially certify their 2024 primary election results.

On Monday, Republican Commissioner Paul Cozzens disrupted the typically routine vote to certify the election results by refusing to approve the final count. He cited the rejection of approximately 400 ballots postmarked after the June 24 deadline. Mailed ballots were sent to Las Vegas for processing, and many mailed before the deadline were not postmarked until the following day, rendering them invalid, county officials said.

The commission postponed the certification vote for a day to explore whether the law provided any flexibility that would allow them to include those ballots in the final count. There was none to be found.

Commission members and other county officials said they spent the final day to certify their ballots by conferring with the state elections office and legislative leaders, who told them that, under current Utah law, there was no way to include the late ballots.

“This sucks,” Commissioner Mike Bleak said at Tuesday’s meeting. “At the end of the day, we’re a nation of rules that is governed by the rule of law, and in this particular case, the rule of law is very clear and there is no wiggle room.”

Sheriff Kenneth Carpenter, who replaced the absent Commissioner Marilyn Wood for the canvass, said the Utah attorney general’s office told him that not certifying the results could possibly result in every ballot from the county being thrown out.

“By not certifying this canvass, we put at risk the other 9,000-plus voters and possibly disenfranchise them,” Carpenter said. “As much heartache as it gives me to see 400 ballots that I think were legitimately cast, we don’t have the hard, fast evidence to support counting them. In order to protect the sanctity of the vote in our county, I believe we have to approve this canvass.”

Cozzens, the lone dissenter, was skeptical of warnings that not certifying the election could nullify every ballot.

“I challenge that a little bit. I don’t think any judge in the world would do that. I really don’t. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that would hold up,” Cozzens said.

Late postmarks weren’t the only election-related controversy on Tuesday in Utah.

A handful of supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Lyman showed up at the Utah County canvass, urging a delay in certifying the results until Lyman’s election-related lawsuits were resolved. On Monday, Lyman’s campaign announced they were suing to access the signature packets incumbent Gov. Spencer Cox’s campaign submitted to qualify for the primary election.

The Utah County Commission brushed aside those requests and voted unanimously to certify the primary election results.

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