Mail-in ballots create controversy in Utah, leaving primary voters frustrated

News & Politics

Issues with mail-in ballots continue to cast doubt on the integrity of U.S. elections as some Utah residents are now frustrated because they believe their recent votes may have been incorrectly invalidated.

All Utah residents with an active voter registration automatically receive a mail-in ballot for each primary and general election. In order for that ballot to be counted, it must be postmarked by a certain deadline. In the case of the primary election held late last month, that deadline was June 24.

‘Why are our ballots crossing our state lines? Where’s the chain of custody by Utah state election officials going to Las Vegas, of all places, sitting for days and then coming back across state lines?’

However, some Utahns claim to have submitted a mail-in ballot by the given deadline only to have officials later refuse to count it because it was incorrectly postmarked on June 25. Part of the problem, they say, results from the fact that the U.S. Postal Service routed all of those ballots across state lines into Las Vegas, Nevada, for processing. So, many mail-in ballots have allegedly been improperly dated by the Las Vegas facility that critics have even dubbed them “Vegas cancellations.”

What’s more, some officials have evidence that the votes should count. Iron County clerk Jon Whittaker claimed that he personally saw several invalidated hand-stamped ballots — mail-in ballots submitted at the mail center and then immediately postmarked by postal employees at the request of the voter — with postmarks as early as June 20.

“Because of the maddening 340 mile journey all mail must take to the Vegas sort center and back, they were likely stamped after midnight, even though they entered the mail stream on the 24th. This is unacceptable!!” Whittaker wrote in an email to USPS.

As a result, only 14 of the 429 supposedly late mail-in ballots from Iron County will be counted in the final vote tally, Whittaker claimed.

These votes are especially important in the Republican primary for Utah’s second congressional district between Republican incumbent Rep. Celeste Maloy, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and challenger Colby Jenkins. As of Friday, Maloy held a lead of just 314 out of about 107,000 votes cast.

To trigger a recount, Jenkins estimates he needs a net gain of about 30 more votes. Washington County, which has favored Jenkins by almost 20%, has about 350 ballots languishing “in the postmark limbo,” Jenkins told Blaze News.

“Why are our ballots crossing our state lines? Where’s the chain of custody by Utah state election officials going to Las Vegas, of all places, sitting for days and then coming back across state lines?” he continued.

In addition to the allegedly late ballots, Jenkins claims more than 500 ballots in Washington County have not been counted because they are considered “uncured,” mostly because signatures did not appear to match. Jenkins believes between the 500 uncured votes and the 350 “late” votes, he may have more than enough votes out there to force a recount.

Jenkins is not the only one who believes the current system in Utah may have left voters disenfranchised. Iron County Commissioner Paul Cozzens has heard similar complaints from his constituents.

“I’m talking to all these friends of mine, and they said, ‘We mailed our ballot on the 22nd or 23rd or 24th,'” Cozzens told Blaze News. “I have a friend that texts me: … ‘I delivered those ballots in person into the post office before 4 o’clock.'”

Cozzens said he has five sworn affidavits from people making similar allegations. He described those affidavits as “extremely believable.”

Iron County commissioners were supposed to vote to certify the election results on Monday afternoon, but Cozzens said he “cannot in good conscience … do so on Monday while hundreds of voters followed state law and their votes will not count.”

True to his word, Cozzens voted against certifying the results at the Monday meeting, but Commissioner Mike Bleak voted for certification, leaving the deciding vote to Sheriff Kenneth Carpenter, a substitute for Commissioner Marilyn Wood, who was unable to attend the meeting.

Carpenter requested to delay the final vote for 24 hours so that the county could reach out to the state attorney general’s office for further guidance. That motion was granted.

Carpenter has misgivings about the allegedly misdated ballots, telling Blaze News they’ve created a “tough situation” and a “moral dilemma.” However, he added that he is bound by the law.

“I think that the law is perfectly clear that the mail-in ballots have to be post-dated the day prior to Election Day,” he told Blaze News. “And if they’re not post-dated prior to Election Day, then they can’t be counted.”

Carpenter urged voters frustrated that they may have been disenfranchised to contact their state legislators and demand that they fix the laws. “As elected officials at the local level, we can’t do it by ourselves,” he said.

“I don’t want this to be a continuing problem for the state of Utah or for Iron County.”

For now, it appears Irony County election results will be certified on Tuesday, much to Cozzens’ chagrin.

“The right to vote has been paid for by the blood of hundreds of thousands who have come before us. Silencing these voices dishonors their sacrifices and undermines the democratic process. Therefore, I will not vote to certify this election until we have a clear path forward without silencing the voices of those who did their duty and mailed their ballots on time,” he said in a statement.

Blaze News reached out to the Maloy campaign and multiple Washington County officials for comment. We did not receive a response.

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