County releases election canvass, and clerk says turnout ‘very, very good’ for a primary’
By Rhett Wilkinson
MANTI—Seventy-eight percent of Republicans in Sanpete County voted in the 2020 Utah Republican primary.
“I don’t believe it’s been that high,” said Sanpete County Clerk Sandy Neill. “This was a very, very good turnout, especially for a primary.”
The turnout was one-and-a-half times the primary election turnout six years ago, which saw 52 percent of Republicans in Sanpete County vote. It nearly doubled the 2016 turnout, which saw 40.89 percent of Sanpete County Republicans vote.
Only 24 ballots weren’t able to be counted, Neill said at the July 21 Sanpete County commission meeting where the commissioners accepted the 2020 Republican primary canvass. Issues included five ballots being unsigned, a signature not matching the given voter signature, three ballots having other signatures and three being from the presidential primary, Neill said.
The Republican governor’s race influenced the turnout, Neill said, noting that folks changed their party to vote.
“I know that did have an effect, especially when you have one of the candidates running from Sanpete County,” Neill said, referring to Spencer Cox.
Cox got 4,617 votes; Greg Hughes got 1,226 votes; Jon Huntsman Jr., 740; and Thomas Wright, 299, Neill said.
“In Sanpete County, it was very much for Spencer Cox,” Neill said.
Those people who changed their party “had the feeling” that the Republican winner would probably be their new governor, Neill said.
Other news development stemming from the county commission meeting included:
Fayette and COVID-19
Fayette has six cases of COVID-19, Commissioner Scott Bartholomew said.
Fayette Mayor Jed Bartholomew didn’t return a request for comment about the situation.
Survey request denied
Spring City Mayor Cynthia DeGrey requested a public land survey to establish bench marks for Spring City. It was denied.
Sanpete County Recorder Reed Hatch made the denial.
“When she is talking about benchmarks, I have no idea and nobody else seems to have any idea what she is talking about,” Hatch told the Messenger.
Hatch believes that the boundaries the county shows for Spring City are relatively accurate, having talked with Sean Fernandez, the state surveyor.
“We don’t feel like we have clearly defined city boundaries and so we wanted to have this bench mark done,” DeGrey said.
DeGrey went before the county commissioners because she thought they approved the grant money for what she sought. However, “the money actually comes through the recorder’s office,” DeGrey said.
DeGrey said that she would be in touch with Telisha Johnson, presumably the next county recorder, in the fall, when the recorder’s office will know it if has funds for public land surveys.
Sudden fraud claims
The county clerk’s office successfully handled people’s claims of vote-by-mail being fraudulent – after voting by mail for eight years.
Neill told the commissioners (Bartholomew, Steven Lund and Edwin Sunderland) that after voting by mail for eight years, all of a sudden, people were claiming on Facebook that the vote-by-mail method is fraudulent.
In the meeting, Bartholomew blamed President Donald Trump. So did Neill in an interview with the Messenger.
“Timing wasn’t terrific, but President Trump announced that because of the virus, some of the states are going to vote by mail and it’s fraud,” Neill said. “So if you trust your president and you listen to your president, ‘oh my gosh, vote by mail is not good, bad things can happen.’”
Neill would call a voter who posted on Facebook and talk with them about their stance. They would change the subject, Neill said.
And, “they couldn’t come up with any answers other than ‘the president told us it was fraudulent,’” Neill said.
The activity died down. One person “re-posted” on Facebook to say that “everything’s good,” Neill reported.
Neill was surprised about that after “a flurry” on Facebook and phone calls about “what was going on” died down.
“It turned out to not be as bad as we were afraid it was going to be,” Neill said.
Neill and staff were concerned with “angry people storming the [Sanpete County Court House] building on Election Day” who wanted to vote in person. A difficult situation was created by Trump’s claim and the Utah legislature not permitting voting in person for the primary election.
Neill and staff “had to be prepared” for a storming of the building, she said.
“I was prepared to handle what needed to be handled, but it wasn’t an issue at all,” Neill said. “It was good.”
Posting agendas late
County commission agendas were not always posted within three days of the minutes being approved, according to Kimball & Roberts, a firm of certified public accountants who did a financial audit of the county.
“We noted that although minutes were being posted to the Utah Public Notice website, they were not always posted within three days of the minutes being approved,” Kimball & Roberts wrote in the report of the audit. “We recommend that the county post minutes to the Utah Public Notice website within three days of the minutes being approved.”
The county’s response: “The county will post approved minutes to the public meeting notice website within three days of the minutes being approved.”