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Colby Jenkins files lawsuit against Washington County as congressional primary remains tight

Jul 5, 2024, 3:54 PM

Utah’s 2nd Congressional district debate between Colby Jenkins and Congresswoman Celeste Maloy at...

Utah’s 2nd Congressional district debate between Colby Jenkins and Congresswoman Celeste Maloy at the KUED studios at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 10, 2024.

SALT LAKE CITY — A court hearing has been scheduled for Monday morning to resolve a lawsuit brought by Colby Jenkins, a Republican candidate for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, asking Washington County to turn over names and addresses for voters whose ballots need to be “cured,” as he remains locked in a dead heat against Rep. Celeste Maloy for the GOP nomination.

Jenkins’ campaign filed a lawsuit against Washington County Clerk/Auditor Ryan Sullivan in Utah’s 5th District Court, seeking immediate relief from the courts to order Sullivan to provide the campaign with a list of uncured ballots before the county’s canvass on Monday. Uncured ballots are those that need to be remedied due to mismatched signatures, insufficient voter affidavits or if the voter’s right to vote has been challenged, among other reasons. County clerks are tasked with contacting such voters to give them a chance to fix any discrepancies with their ballot.

The lawsuit said the campaign seeks to “contact its supporters who are on the uncured ballot list and encourage them to cure their ballot so that their voice will be heard in this close election.” Any list of uncured ballots provided by election officials to the campaign would not show how the person voted.

“The Jenkins campaign has made repeated requests to Sullivan and even provided him with the statutes requiring him to provide the list,” the campaign said in a news release, noting that Utah law requires a two-day deadline to respond to requests for uncured ballots. “While many counties have managed to cure all or almost all their ballots, Washington County still has a whopping 531 uncured ballots. We find it a suspicious coincidence that such a large outstanding number of ballots are being withheld in a county that Mr. Jenkins is winning with nearly 60% of the vote.”

Sullivan did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did attorneys for Jenkins’ campaign.

Maloy, Jenkins primary race winner may take weeks to determine

Eric Clarke, the Washington County attorney, quickly filed an objection to Jenkins’ lawsuit claiming the complaint is “based entirely on a misinterpretation of a provision of the Utah Election Code.”

“A county clerk has the discretion under state law to decide whether to provide the requested ballot cure lists,” Clarke’s filing states. “That position is supported by the plain language of the statute and by legislative history.”

He asked the court to deny Jenkins’ petition, “or at the very least, set this matter for a hearing so that defendant Sullivan can be heard.”

A hearing was scheduled for Monday at 9 a.m. in the St. George Courthouse before Judge Jay Winward.

Jenkins trailed Maloy by 295 votes as of Friday morning, which was just outside of the 0.25% threshold to qualify for a recount. With nearly 107,000 votes cast, the margin to trigger such a recount is about 270 votes.

With the vast majority of votes tabulated across the 13 counties that comprise Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, the race is likely to be decided by the several hundred ballots that need to be cured. County officials told KSL there were several hundred outstanding ballots as of Friday morning, including 531 that need to be cured in Washington County.

Sevier County had 87 outstanding ballots in the primary, including ballots still being counted and those that needed to be cured. Salt Lake County — which is split between all four of Utah’s congressional districts — had 1,420 outstanding ballots for the entire county, though it’s unclear how many of those are from the 2nd District.

The Republican primary for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District was the only major race that remained too close to call on election night on June 25, and the race has only tightened since then as more ballots have poured in.

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Colby Jenkins files lawsuit against Washington County as congressional primary remains tight