‘Why is this taking so long?’: Utah’s Lt. Gov. addresses complaints about election efficiency

A vote by mail return box at the Salt Lake City & County Building. (FOX 13 file image)

SALT LAKE CITY — More than one week after Election Day many Utahns are eager to learn the official results, particularly in the hotly-contested race for Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox addressed some of the concerns and frequently asked questions about the process in a sometimes tongue-in-cheek essay posted late Wednesday night.

“‘Why is this taking so long’ and Other Election Musings” begins with a bit of an “I told you so” from Cox, as he references a tweet from before the election where he stated results would be coming in well after Election Day. ‘

Cox notes that as of Wednesday night, Democrat challenger Ben McAdams leads Republican incumbent Mia Love 50.18 percent to 49.82 percent in Utah’s 4th District.

“Just like you, I’m beyond anxious to get the final results for this race and others (the 4th District just happens to be my district),” Cox wrote. “As you might imagine, my Elections Office and I have been receiving lots of questions — things like ‘why aren’t results available on Election Day anymore?’, ‘what’s taking so long?’ and, ‘why are you a terrible piece of garbage’?”

Cox said several factors contribute to the delay, including a high turnout that is expected to exceed 70 percent. In 2014, turnout was 46% among registered voters. He also said the decision to move to vote by-mail in 27 of Utah’s 29 counties means counting ballots takes longer, as signatures must be verified.

“This means actual people have to verify signatures and then separate the ballot from the privacy envelope,” Cox wrote. “If that signature doesn’t match, then the clerk attempts to contact the voter. Only then can the ballot be counted.”

He also mentions that thousands of ballots postmarked before Election Day did not arrive until after election night.

Another issue is Utah’s new same-day voter registration, which allowed more people to cast provisional ballots—all of which must be verified by election officials before being counted.

Cox also addressed the possibility of a recount in Utah, which under state law occurs when the margin in a race is 0.25% or less. Once all votes are counted, a candidate (or in the case of a initiative, a group of voters) can request a recount if the votes fall within that threshold.

“Just to put that number into perspective, let’s assume that there are 250,000 votes cast in the 4th District race,” Cox wrote. “0.25% of 250,000 is 625 votes. At the time I am writing this, Ben McAdams is leading by 873 votes. So we are definitely approaching recount territory.”

Cox also briefly addressed litigation from the Mia Love campaign regarding signature verification, saying they don’t generally comment on lawsuits but “Unless ordered otherwise by a judge, counties are bound by law to complete their canvass by November 20th.”

The essay from Cox ended with a plea to recognize the value of vote by mail, and to enjoy the intrigue and drama of waiting for the final result.

“Instead of binge watching and regretting, we actually get to Netflix and chill every night. And that means we are all winners this election.”

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