Utah lawmaker drops lawsuit over disqualified ballots in primary election loss

Utah lawmaker drops lawsuit over disqualified ballots in primary election loss


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SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, has abandoned his lawsuit demanding that about 100 ballots disqualified in his race be counted.

The veteran lawmaker, who lost to Morgan County Commissioner Logan Wilde in the Republican primary by just nine votes, filed a suit earlier this month against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and clerks in counties that make up his district, claiming the ballots were improperly disqualified.

With the November election approaching, the Utah Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis, setting aggressive deadlines. But Monday, Brown and his attorneys informed the court they could not meet the timeline.

"While (Brown) still believes he has a meritorious case, the restricted timeline imposed on this case renders further pursuit of this matter impossible," Brown's attorney's wrote in a request to dismiss the case filed Monday.

Election officials disqualified 70 ballots in Brown's race, they said, because they were postmarked on June 28, the day of the primary election, not by the June 27 due date required by state law for by-mail ballots. Thirty-two other ballots were disqualified because their signatures did not match the voters' signatures in clerks' databases.

But Brown said the disqualified ballots could have unfairly cost him the race. Not all rural voters understand, he said, that even though they drop their ballots in the mail on the day before Election Day, their ballots may not be postmarked until the next day because sometimes it can take another 24 hours or more to reach the Salt Lake City Post Office, where they are officially postmarked.

The U.S. Postal Service, however, says mail should receive a postmark the same day it is dropped in the mail, as long as it is collected by postal workers and dropped off at the post office before the office's last drop-off time.

Election officials argued they disqualified the ballots according to state law, and it would be impossible to know whether the ballots were dropped in the mail before midnight on the day before the primary election.

Responding to Brown's complaint, the lieutenant governor issued a statement acknowledging that postmark deadlines can be confusing to voters and calling on other election officials and lawmakers to find a solution to make sure fewer ballots are disqualified due to postmark issues.

Wilde will advance to the November election to face Democrat Cole Capener.

Brown, a former House speaker, has served in the Utah Legislature for more than 24 years.

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Katie McKellar


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