Three Salt Lake County precincts, some 2,900 voters, were misplaced in last week's primary election, according to a candidate and a handful of voters who protested before the County Commission Monday.
These were key precincts and the mistake could skew the November election, said County Council candidate Paulina Flint.
At Monday's primary election vote canvass meeting, Flint presented a letter saying precincts 4750, 4722 and 4740, in unincorporated Salt Lake County, belong in Council District 5. That's the district in which Flint, a Democrat, is running.
The county's written description of district boundaries listed the three precincts in District 5. But in last Tuesday's election, the votes in those precincts instead were counted in Council District 6, where Chris Cage and Pete Kutulas were the Democratic candidates for County Council.
Flint discovered the inconsistency last Wednesday, the day after the election. In her letter to Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, she noted discrepancies between the two documents that indicate which precincts fall in which districts.
"I have here a written description of boundaries that placed precincts 4750, 4722 and 4740 inside District 5," Flint told the commission. But she also had a map showing the three precincts in District 6.
District 6 includes Cottonwood Heights, Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, White City, Draper and parts of Holladay, Riverton, Bluffdale and Midvale, while District 5 covers South Jordan, West Jordan, Taylorsville and some of the unincorporated area around Sandy. Primary election turnout in District 5 had been vigorous, at 22 percent, compared with a dismal 0.77 percent in District 6.
Flint has been campaigning in District 5 and believed the people in precincts 4750, 4722 and 4740 could help elect her in the general election this fall. Because she's a Democrat and District 5 had no Democratic primary, "I would love to have them vote for me in the November election," she said. Of course, if those residents are counted in District 6, they can't help the District 5 candidate.
Flint drove to the canvass meeting with a vanload of voters from the three wayward precincts. "Our precinct was somehow assigned to the wrong County Council district," said Gene Robinson, one of the group of county residents who joined Flint's protest. "Looking at the map, we realized we should have been allowed to vote in District 5."
Robinson and Paul Smith, another protester, said their voting rights had been abridged in a violation of the 15th Amendment of the Constitution. Smith said he believed the lines had been redrawn to split up the voting bloc that had been in District 5.
"I don't think anybody noticed those three precincts weren't listed," County Commissioner Mark Shurtleff said after the canvass meeting. "It was an oversight."
Shurtleff said the County Commission will now ask deputy county attorney Gavin Anderson for counsel. Anderson is out of town, but "I think he's due back Wednesday," Shurtleff said.
The precincts' location could affect the Cage-Kutulas race in District 6. Kutulas won the primary by just 20 votes, and Cage has asked the County Commission for a recount. That will have to be done after the precincts issue is resolved, said Commissioner Brent Overson.
Anderson will have to decide which document carries legal weight: the map with the three precincts in District 6 or the written descriptions with them in 5.
"Our database shows these precincts were always in District 6," said Swensen. She added that the map that places them there has existed since 1997, and her office mailed voters registration cards last fall indicating their precincts fell inside District 6. But the map and the description don't match up, Swensen admitted, and "the legal counsel will have to decide which takes precedence."
The conflict between the map and the written description shows that somebody didn't do his homework. "This calls the election process into question. What else are they not taking care of?" Flint asked.
She said she won't accept a ruling that places the three precincts in District 6. "If this stands, the process is flawed. And we will appeal it to the Supreme Court if we have to," Flint said.
After consulting Anderson, the County Commission will address the issue again at noon July 12 at the Salt Lake County Government Center, 2001 S. State.