In Utah's Most Contentious Race, It's Not Over Till It's Over
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.
Just a friendly preparatory reminder…we will still have tens of thousands of ballots to count after election night. Accordingly—in very close races—we likely won’t know the winner for several days (and up to 2 weeks for the official canvas) after Election night. https://t.co/v1qIbrkLA7— Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) October 27, 2018
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.”