Washington County clerk has discretion in not releasing list of ‘uncured’ ballots, judge rules

Jul 8, 2024, 10:36 AM | Updated: 10:45 am

Colby Jenkins and Rep. Celeste Maloy debate in Salt Lake City on June 10. A judge on Monday rejecte...

Colby Jenkins and Rep. Celeste Maloy debate in Salt Lake City on June 10. A judge on Monday rejected a request from Jenkins' campaign to compel the Washington County clerk to turn over a list of ballots with issues to be resolved. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News )

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News )

ST. GEORGE — A Utah judge has ruled against the congressional campaign of Colby Jenkins after the candidate sought to obtain a list of Washington County voters whose ballots are “uncured” ahead of the county’s canvass Monday.

Jenkins, a Republican who is challenging Rep. Celeste Maloy in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District primary, sued Washington County Clerk/Auditor Ryan Sullivan on Friday, asking the courts to quickly compel Sullivan to turn over a list of voters whose ballots need to be cured, so that the campaign could contact voters and urge them to fix the issues with their ballots.

Many of the uncured ballots have mismatched signatures, meaning county election officials have been unable to count them.

Fifth District Judge Jay Winward ultimately rejected Jenkins’ request, saying that Utah election law gives county clerks discretion when it comes to releasing lists of uncured ballots.

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

“If Mr. Sullivan decides to do this,” Winward said of optionally handing over the list of uncured ballots, “he has to comply with the law.”

John Mertens, an attorney for the Jenkins campaign, argued that not releasing the list could do irreparable harm to Jenkins’ election prospects, and would hurt voters who are unable to have their ballots cured.

He also argued that Sullivan’s decision not to turn over the list is in contrast to a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that voters from different counties should be treated equally, citing the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000. The Salt Lake County clerk voluntarily provided the campaign with its list of voters, and Mertens argued that by not doing so, Sullivan was treating Washington County voters differently than Salt Lake County voters.

But Winward said when weighing the harms in the case, voters “have every right” to ask elected officials not to disclose their personal information to campaigns.

Sullivan testified to Winward that his staff followed the law relating to uncured ballots by leaving them unopened, separating them from other ballots and contacting the voters by mail, or email and phone, if applicable, to inform them of the issue and the steps required to fix it.

If the county clerk decides not to disclose the cure list to a campaign, “they’re treating voters the same as if an officer decided to disclose because they’re simply getting a way to notify” voters of the issues, the judge said. “It’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 Jenkins isn’t helpless when it comes to getting the outstanding ballots cured before the canvass.

“Candidate Jenkins just had a huge forum,” Winward said, referencing the media attention of the lawsuit and hearing. “I’m grateful that he brought this to the court. He has a huge forum and a bank of reporters to say, ‘Everybody in Washington County, go to the link, track your vote. If it wasn’t counted, contact the clerk immediately.’ And I hope every voter in this county — whether it’s 500 or 5,000 — checks their vote … make sure it was counted.”

Jenkins currently trails Maloy by 314 votes, though he leads the incumbent with nearly 60% of the vote in Washington County. The threshold for a recount is estimated to be a margin of about 267 votes, and Jenkins hopes to make up that ground with the more than 400 uncured ballots out of Washington County.

This story will be updated.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated that the Washington County canvass is Monday. The canvass is Tuesday at 4 p.m., but voters need to cure their ballots by Monday.

Related stories

KSL 5 TV Live

Politics & Elections

Sen. Bob Menendez, pictured leaving Manhattan federal court on July 16, will resign his seat effect...

Laura Dolan, Lauren Fox and Clare Foran, CNN

Bob Menendez will resign his US Senate seat effective August 20

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey will resign his seat effective August 20, according to a copy of his resignation letter obtained by CNN.

17 hours ago

A voter submits their ballot during primary election voting in Provo on June 25. Lt. Gov. Deidre He...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.com

Lieutenant governor certifies results from Utah’s June primary elections

Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson certified the statewide June 25 primary election Monday.

21 hours ago

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a nationally televised address from the Oval Office of the White ...

Aamer Madhani

Biden will address the nation Wednesday on his decision to drop his 2024 Democratic reelection bid

President Joe Biden will address the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening on his decision to drop his 2024 Democratic reelection bid.

22 hours ago

Kimberly Cheatle, Director, U.S. Secret Service, testifies during a House Committee on Oversight an...

Colleen Long

Secret Service director steps down after assassination attempt against ex-President Trump at rally

The director of the Secret Service is stepping down from her job following the assassination attempt against former President Donald Trump.

24 hours ago

(Harris delegates)...

Ethan Cohen, Molly English, Matt Holt and Sydney Topf, CNN

Harris secures enough delegate endorsements to clinch Democratic nomination

Kamala Harris has the support of enough Democratic delegates to win the party’s nomination for president, according to CNN’s delegate estimate.

1 day ago

Utah's democratic delegates will meet this week to talk about how they will pick the party's next n...

Shelby Lofton

Utah democratic delegates announce endorsement for Harris as path to naming a nominee changes

All of the Utah democratic delegates present at a meeting Monday voted in favor of endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris. 

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Washington County clerk has discretion in not releasing list of ‘uncured’ ballots, judge rules