State election officials still counting primary ballots

SALT LAKE CITY – State election officials have announced that more than 100,000 ballots cast in the June 30 primary election still remain to be counted.

That means that at least three high-profile primary races are still up for grabs.

Those contests include the race between Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and former governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. for the GOP gubernatorial nomination; the race between incumbent Attorney General Sean Reyes and Utah County Attorney David Leavitt for the GOP nod for attorney general; and the race between businessman Blake David Moore and Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson for the GOP nomination to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop in Congress.

Initial primary results in any of those races are close enough to be changed by the impact of the remaining uncounted ballots from the primary.

That’s especially true in the gubernatorial race, since election officials say that more than half of the 100,000 uncounted ballots were cast in Salt Lake City. According to primary analysis by The New York Times, voters in Utah’s metropolitan areas strongly favored Huntsman’s candidacy while support for Cox came mainly from rural areas.

State officials explained that the unusual delay in ballot counting resulted from changes to the primary election process due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those changes included counting mail-in ballots postmarked on June 30, a day later than usual. Other changes included quarantining ballots for at least 24 hours and limiting the number of election officials in counting rooms in order to maintain social distancing.

As of noon on July 2, the latest count of ballots had Cox with 37 percent of the GOP primary vote, compared to 34 percent of votes for Huntsman. In terms of raw numbers, however, Cox was only leading by about 12,000 votes.

In the race for the GOP nomination for attorney general, Reyes had captured 54 percent of the primary ballots compared to 45 percent for Leavitt, with about 35,000 votes separating those candidates.

The razor-thin margin between the leading candidates for the GOP nod in the 1st Congressional District was only about 800 votes at noon on July 2, with Moore holding 30.3 percent of ballots cast to 29.4 percent for Stevenson.

The race for the Democratic nomination in the 1st District is also still in question. The latest count of primary ballots has Darren Parry of Logan with 53 percent of votes cast compared to 47 percent for Jamie Cheek of Ogden, with about 900 votes separating the candidates.

State officials said that counting of ballots would continue on July 2 and 3.

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