Saturday, August 16, 2014

State Director of Elections Misinforms About Election Law

Even a great reporter can have a story get off course when misinformed by those they interview.  Especially when those they interview are supposedly experts in their field.  Even Robert Gehrke at the Salt Lake Tribune is not immune.  I don't blame him, since the expert he interviewed is Mark Thomas, the state director of elections.

He should know the law.  But he totally missed on this one.

The story goes like this:  Back in June, it appeared on election night that Jim Dyer beat incumbent Jim Withers by one vote in the GOP primary for the Millard County Commission.  However, when the day of the final canvas came, there were several absentee ballots that had been misplaced, and the final tally had Withers up by 5 votes.  Mr Dyer challenged seven ballots, but the county commission, acting as the board of canvassers, rejected the arguments and accepted the results.

Dyer sued in court, and Fourth District Judge Claudia Laycock found enough evidence of illegal votes to cast doubt on the outcome of the election.  Because she could not determine who received the highest number of votes, she threw out the outcome of the election and ordered the county clerk to hold a new primary election.  However, there is some doubt about whether one could be held in time, and I agree.  However, where things move on from here is murky.  Here's what Mr Thomas at the state elections office had to say:

The way I read the statute is it says the office becomes vacant. So we’re still trying to read the opinion and provide some guidance to the county."

Thomas said it appears the law would call for someone to be appointed to fill the vacancy. That appointed commissioner would serve until the next election in 2016.

However, that's not entirely true. The office does not become vacant, because the ruling only affects the 2014 election, not when Withers was elected. The office is still held by Withers until January 1, 2015, when it will be filled by the winner of November's general election.  Since there is no longer a Republican Nominee (since the Republican primary was voided), and no other candidate filed to ruin, there are currently no candidates on the ballot.  However, there is a way to win without having your name on the ballot: a write-in candidacy.  potential write-in candidates have until September 5th to register.

If I were a party's chairman, I would be doing some heavy candidate recruitment right about now.

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