Utah Rep. LaVar “Landslide” Christensen won his re-election by 5 votes.
Several dozen “spoiled” ballots in his Draper House District 32 were not counted for various reasons – the mail-in ballot wasn’t signed, or signed by the wrong person in the household, etc.
So Christensen’s re-election could well have hinged on 6 “spoiled” ballots for his Democratic challenger, Suzanne Harrison, not being counted because they contained technical mistakes.
Tuesday, he and 73 other House members voted for HB12, which will allow county clerks (who run elections) to notify voters whose ballots are “spoiled” – or otherwise not counted – to give them a chance to correct the mistake. And their ballots would be counted – within certain time frames — before the official canvass is certified.
Sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, read off a list of the number of spoiled ballots in the Nov. 8 election – 16,683 in Salt Lake County alone, 2,049 in Utah County.
Salt Lake County had mail-in voting; Utah County didn’t.
Either way, it is clear that large numbers of citizens believed they voted in 2016; but in fact, they did not.
Eliason’s bill allows clerks, after opening an absentee/mail-in ballot and finding a problem with it, to notify the voter via email, text, cell phone or U.S. mail and give that person a chance to correct the mistake.
Now, they can’t change their vote – the idea is if the ballot hasn’t been signed (the major “spoil” in mail-in ballots), then they can sign the ballot correctly.
Other technical problems can be fixed.
And their ballot will be counted.
Christensen praised the bill. After each post-election counting had taken place in his race, he closed on his challenger Harrison, who led on Election Night.
After the final results had been announced, the Utah Democratic Party demanded a recount, which showed Christensen won by 5 votes out of more than 17,000 cast.
In any case, had HB12 been in place, that race could have flipped, or Christensen could have won bigger. At least the many “spoiled” ballots would have been counted.
Freshman Rep. Derrin Owens, R-Fountain Green, said he didn’t have the same “heart” as some of the other lawmakers and didn’t think anyone not capable of filling out a ballot correctly should be counted.
“If you make two or three mistakes,” said Owens, “I don’t know if I want you to vote.”
But in the end, even Owens voted for HB12, which now goes to the Senate for consideration.