Republicans soon may be in court trying to resolve who won the primary race for state Senate in a district where hundreds of people may have been given the wrong choice.
But the judges may face an impossible task. If a new election is ordered, Salt Lake County officials don't know how to keep people in District 5 who voted for Democrats on Sept. 8 from crossing over and voting Republican. Voters in Utah primary elections must vote for candidates in one party only.County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said she could mail ballots to the people who voted before election judges discovered the error. Because voters sign a polling book, the county knows who those people are.
"We could tell them if they voted Democratic to just ignore it," she said.
Riverton City Councilman Brent Richards was declared the winner by 196 votes in the race to become the Republican candidate to represent a district that includes most of the county's southwest corner.
But some polling booths in six voting districts contained the wrong voting books. Instead of choosing between Richards and incumbent State Sen. Dix McMullin, those voters were given a choice between two candidates running on the county's southeast side.
Swensen said Wednesday that 367 people voted before the error was discovered. But she has no way of knowing how many of those used the booths containing the wrong information, or how many of them skipped the race because they voted for Democrats.
McMullin's attorney, Jim Jardine, said he wants both candidates to approach the Utah Supreme Court and ask for a new election in the six districts.
"(The) number of votes in question casts a serious cloud over this election," Jardine wrote in the letter to Richards' attorney, Bob Copier. "It is a sufficiently substantial number that no one can have confidence in the election."
But Copier said no one could have confidence in a new election, which he termed a "waste of time and money" that only helps the Democrats."As a practical matter, the inability to ensure against crossover voting in a Republican revote by those who voted in the Democratic primary would hopelessly taint any revote and erode public confidence in the revote to a much greater degree than it has already been eroded," he said.
Copier urged McMullin to "graciously" accept defeat and unite behind Richards to defeat Democrat Sid White.