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Salt Lake County Council race narrows as results trickle in

SALT LAKE CITY — The Democratic fight to take back control of the GOP-majority Salt Lake County Council is turning out to be a nail-biter.

Election night results had Democratic challenger Catherine Kanter leading Republican incumbent Richard Snelgrove by more than 5,000 votes. Updates early Wednesday narrowed the gap to about 4,300 votes — a less than 2 percent margin.

Rozan Mitchell, Salt Lake County elections director, said the race could tighten even more because the county still hadn't counted more than 150,000 last-minute by-mail and provisional ballots as of Wednesday evening.

"It could flip," she said. "There's still a lot of ballots that need to be tabulated."

Though Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen had hoped 80 percent of active voters in the county would cast ballots this year, election night results showed a 51 percent turnout.

When the remaining 150,000 are counted, that will boost turnout to more than 80 percent, Mitchell said.

That gives Snelgrove hope. He pointed out that the election night results showed only 34 percent of the county's active registered Republicans had voted, while Democratic turnout was more than 54 percent. Democrats have a tendency to vote earlier than Republicans, Snelgrove said.

"I'm hopeful that the percentages will actually flip and I'll take the lead," he said. "I'm still cautiously optimistic, but let's face it. It would be an honor to continue serving, but should it come down to an end, it has been an honor to serve."

Kanter said she's confident she'll maintain the lead. Of the outstanding ballots, she needs to win 48 percent to take Snelgrove's seat.

"I think our lead is going to hold," she said. "It's a very tight race — I'm certainly not calling it a victory at this point — but I'm very optimistic."