A judge ruled on Monday that Washington County Clerk Ryan Sullivan is not required to provide 2nd Congressional District candidate Colby Jenkins with the names and addresses of voters whose ballots require signature confirmation to be counted.

Jenkins is currently 314 votes behind Rep. Celeste Maloy in the hotly contested Republican primary to represent Utah’s 2nd District. The race is still too close to call nearly two weeks after the June 25 election.

Monday marks the final day voters with challenged ballots can “remedy” them before Washington County undergoes an election certification “canvass” on Tuesday.

The Washington County clerk’s office has already reached out to each of the voters on the “uncured ballot list” via a letter, and, for those who provided contact information, via a phone call or a text with a link to cure their ballot through an affidavit confirming their signature.

Jenkins’ campaign hoped by obtaining the names and addresses of voters on this list they could encourage them to respond to the county clerk’s office and potentially bring the race into recount territory, or a margin of less than 270 votes between the two candidates.

Maloy is ahead in most counties in the district, but Jenkins leads Washington County with nearly 60% of the vote. As of Monday morning, Washington County had more than 430 “cure ballots pending remedy.”

Still a few hundred votes behind in congressional race, Colby Jenkins files lawsuit to get voters’ names and addresses

Colby Jenkins requests voter info to cure ballots

In a complaint filed last week in the 5th Judicial District Court in Washington County, Jenkins claimed county election offices are required under state code to release their “uncured ballot lists” upon request.

The documents said the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office provided the Jenkins campaign with this information but that the Washington County Clerk’s office refused to do so “on the mistaken belief that they have the discretion to withhold it.”

On Monday, Jenkins’ lawyer, John Mertens, argued the Utah law that allows individuals to fast-track requests for election-related public records was not optional because the “uncured ballot list” was not a draft record or a sealed election return and that state GRAMA laws require responses from public entities.

Mertens also argued that giving clerks discretion on releasing voter information would result in counties treating voters differently. He also said that campaigns would be able to give voters a better chance of their voice being heard because ballot remedy requests would be delayed by the U.S. Postal Service which routes all Washington County mail through Las Vegas.

“The irreparable harm is that if we have legal ballots that aren’t being counted, and we have legal voters who are able to cure their votes, the irreparable harm would be that their voices would not be heard in this election,” Mertens said during the court hearing. “And maybe that will result in a victory for one candidate or the other. The crucial item of importance is that these voters have their voices counted.”

A recount just became more likely in the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary

Judge rules in Washington County clerk’s favor

5th District Court Judge Jay Winward ruled that the plain text of Utah statute gives county clerks discretion as to whether they release uncured ballot lists before their county canvass.

“That’s within his purview as the executive branch officer to say, ‘I’m not disclosing names of my voters in my county, I’m going to contact them as required by the statute,’” Winward said at the 9 a.m. hearing.

Winward explained the judicial branch’s job is to interpret what the state legislature has written and ensure executive officials are in “substantial compliance” with the law.

The judge questioned Sullivan under oath and found he had complied with the law to the best of his ability by safely storing the unopened challenged ballots and contacting the ballots’ corresponding voters with steps to remedy their ballots.

Winward praised the state legislature for doing their due diligence with election law but said there could be room for improvement.

“As I read this election code, I found it robust, I found that the legislature really did a pretty good job of addressing a lot of issues,” he said, adding, “I might ask my senator and my representative to maybe make this a little bit more robust.”


Winward suggested the legislature might want to make more specific instructions for county clerks in the case of extremely close elections.

While the outcome was not what Jenkins hoped for, Winward said the judicial system had provided the candidate with “a huge forum” to inform voters and remind them to track and cure their ballots if needed.

“I hope every voter in this county checks their vote,” Winward said. “The law was passed, the executive branch executed the law, I’m interpreting the statute, and now the people get to know where there is — not a hole in the system — where they can still have their voice in this process.”

Voters can check the status of their mail-in ballot at ballottrax.utah.gov.

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