Clerk continues to count during week after election
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI—Election night was only the beginning for Sanpete County Clerk Sandy Neill and her staff.
Yes, they counted the bulk of the ballots, 11,909, on Nov. 3.
But by Monday, Nov. 6, they had counted 12,336. And the staff estimated they had 100 to 200 outstanding.
When the 427 additional ballots counted between election night and Monday were added into totals for more than 40 races or issues on the ballot, they didn’t change the results very much.
Over a week’s time, Donald Trump’s total in Sanpete County went from 9,705 to 10,064, and Joe Biden’s from 1,783 to 1,735, but their percentages didn’t change. (See chart for updated numbers).
There was a similar pattern in other national and state races. The totals votes reported from the Sanpete County went up, but the percentages stayed the same within 1 percent.
In Congressional District 4, the lead in the district see-sawed back and forth between Democrat Ben McAdams and Republican Burgess Owens. As of Monday night, McAdams was back in the lead.
The only ballot item where there was some doubt about the outcome on election night was the Mt. Pleasant RAP (recreation-arts-parks) tax.
Based on updated numbers, the measure passed. As of Monday night, the vote was 764 “for” and 710 “against.”
Updated totals showed the Ephraim RAP tax passing easily, 1,207 to 677.
Numbers have changed but not the outcome of the race between Reed Hatch, a Republican, and Larry Smith, of the Utah United Party, for the Sanpete County Commission.
On election night, Hatch had 8,765. By Monday, his total was up to 9,055. Smith’s total went from 2,479 to 2,587.
One of the most tedious aspects of the job for Neill and her staff is reviewing write-in votes. By state law, the clerk only has to count write-in votes for people who register as write-in candidates before the election.
There were registered write-in candidates for president governor and Congress in District 4. Voters cast 564 write-in votes in those races. So Neill’s staff had to check each of the ballots where someone cast a write-in vote to determine if the name written in was one of the registered candidates.
The biggest issue in administration of the election was the company that printed most of the ballots failing to print the critical signature line on the inside flap of the ballot envelope.
With no signature line, many voters sent their ballot s in unsigned. Yet the law requires ballots to be signed in order to be counted.
Word of the error and how to sign a ballot without the signature line got out through social media, radio and the Messenger. In addition, the ballot printing company sent a postcard people could sign and include in their ballot envelope, or mail separately from their ballot.
As of Friday, Neill said she had 45 to 50 ballots that still hadn’t been signed. She said her staff was doing everything it could think of to contact the voters involved and ask them to come in and sign. The clerk even offered the option of signing a piece of paper, taking a picture of the signature, and texting it in.
Neill said she had referred the issue of how much of the ballot printing company’s bill to pay, or whether to decline to pay it at all, to the county attorney.