Ballots trickled into the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary race on Tuesday, slightly eroding Rep. Celeste Maloy’s slim lead to just 302 votes over her challenger Colby Jenkins. The race is the closest Utah Republican congressional primary in 30 years.

The drama to decide the fate of Maloy’s short tenure in office continues a week after the June 25 primary election as the district’s 13 counties process a final few dozen ballots and wait to hear back from several hundred GOP voters whose mail-in ballots were challenged because of signatures that don’t match those on record.

Tallies must be finalized ahead of next Monday and Tuesday’s canvasses where county election results are certified by county commissioners or council members following an audit of tabulation machines and an analysis of vote totals.

Close call: 2nd District nail-biter comes down to challenged votes

A recount in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District?

If the margin separating Maloy, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and Jenkins, who was endorsed by Sen. Mike Lee, closes much further, Jenkins could file for recount. Jenkins can make the request to the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office if Maloy’s lead dips below .25% of the roughly 106,500 votes cast which would be a margin of around 270 votes.

Post-Election Day ballot counts decreased Maloy’s advantage from around 1,000 votes to 383, then to 309, and on Tuesday to 302 as Jenkins consistently outperforms his initial showing with late-breaking votes.

Maloy ended her days-long silence with a social media post on Tuesday morning quoting singer Tom Petty who sang, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

“I know this has been a challenge for all of us as we watch and wait for the ballots to be counted. So many of you have reached out to express your support and I truly appreciate the encouragement,” said Maloy, who was elected just last November in a special election.

Maloy thanked county clerks for their hard work “to ensure an accurate count” and encouraged supporters to keep checking for updated results and to check the status of their ballot at “(L)et’s get ready for the general election!” she said.

On June 26, Jenkins said in a post on X that his campaign would be watching for further updates because the race was still too close to call.

“We will make additional comments as more updates come in and when the final outcome becomes clear,” Jenkins said.

Most counties will provide their final vote updates on Wednesday or Friday before their canvass early next week. But because the 2nd Congressional District race is a multi-county election, it will undergo a statewide canvass on July 22 by the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office. A candidate must file a request for a recount no later than seven days after the statewide canvass, according to state code.

The lieutenant governor must conduct a full recount of the race no later than 10 days after the statewide canvass. A recount includes recounting all ballots cast in a race and reexamining all uncounted ballots to ensure they were rightly discarded.

Rep. Celeste Maloy’s lead continues to shrink in congressional race. Colby Jenkins hopes it’ll get close enough for a recount

Utah’s two neck-to-neck primaries: 2024 and 1994

The last time Utah congressional candidates found their way to such a close conclusion was nearly 30 years ago to the day.

The 3rd District GOP primary of June 28, 1994, saw Emery County Commissioner Dixie Thompson pull ahead of Provo real estate developer Tom Draschil by just 156 votes of the 31,596 votes cast. The margin barely fell within the then-broader recount threshold of .5%.

Draschil said at the time he was “awfully interested” in the results of a recount because “the difference could go either way.” However, the recount, which was completed a week after the election on July 5, actually extended Thompson’s lead to 185 votes.

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Draschil accepted the results of the recount but put partial blame for his loss on Democrats voting in Utah Republican Party primaries, which were open to all registered voters until the 1996 election cycle. Draschil alleged that some voters cast a ballot in both major party primaries without knowing that doing so would result in their ballots being disqualified.

Former Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter — Kelleen Leishman at the time — was Utah’s director of elections when Thompson faced Draschil in the primary. Potter remembers that despite some changes to the election system, including the advent of mail-in ballots, the parallels between the 2024 2nd district race and the 1994 3rd district race are readily apparent.

“The tension was high as both candidates and their teams were anxious and hopeful that the recount would result in an outcome in their favor while conscientious election officials did their very best to ensure an accurate counting process and results that would be accepted as final by both campaigns,” Potter told the Deseret News.

Besides the 1994 contest, this year’s 2nd District showdown is the closest Republican congressional primary race in the Beehive State since at least 1960.

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