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Find KUER's reporting on the races, candidates and more for Utah’s 2018 midterm elections. Click here for our graphics of the U.S. Senate race, 4 Congressional races and Utah ballot initiatives.

In Utah's Most Contentious Race, It's Not Over Till It's Over

Photo of ballot machine.
Nicole Nixon / KUER
Salt Lake County clerk’s office counting ballots. ";

When Utah’s polls close next Tuesday at 8 p.m., all eyes will be on the state’s elections website for early results in the hotly contested 4th Congressional District.

“People really want to be able to call things on election night and the reality is, with very close races, that’s probably not going to happen,” said Justin Lee, Utah’s director of elections.

Political forecasters are expecting a tight race between Republican incumbent Mia Love and Democrat Ben McAdams. Both campaigns are bracing for what could be a very long night — or even days — if results are too close to call.

Lee said the state’s vote-by-mail system means clerks will be collecting ballots through election day, drawing out the tally.

“We get many ballots later on election day or in the days following election day that have to be counted, so there are several races that are really just in limbo until we get to the canvas,” he said.

Love lost her first election bid in 2012 to Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson by 768 votes. Two years later, she won by more than 7,500 votes running against Democrat Doug Owens. Both races were called the night of the election.

Dave Hansen, Love’s campaign director, said they’re used to uncertainty.

“We hope that she wins by a good margin and it’s all decided on election night. If it goes longer than that, then we have to wait for the ballots to all get in and counted by the county clerks,” he said.

McAdams’ campaign director, Andrew Roberts, believes the result will mirror recent polling.

“We expect on election night for this race to be as close as it has been,” he said. “We’ll continue to knock doors and keep people in line at the polls until the very end, but this is a close race.”

A poll released Monday by Florida-based Dixie Strategies and KUTV showed McAdams with a 6 point lead over Love, a result Love’s campaign director described as “bogus.”

Two other recent polls, including one by the New York Times, showed the two candidates tied for the lead.

Lee said if the margin of victory for either candidate is razor thin, election officials would still need to tabulate every vote to determine if there will be a recount.

“Now the recount margin is .25 percent of the total votes cast in the district, so until we get the final number, we don’t know exactly what the recount margin even is,” he said.

County clerks have up to two weeks after the election to complete their official tallies, while the state has until Nov. 26.

The elections website will post updates on the Friday following the election and periodically through the final canvas.

“Everybody wants to know … by 9 o’clock who won,” said Hansen, Love’s campaign director. “But campaigns have to just stay on it and stay focused on making sure that everything’s done the way it’s supposed to be done.”

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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