Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) is filing a lawsuit against the Salt Lake County Clerk in a bid to stop the counting of votes until her campaign is allowed to challenge whether signatures on ballot envelopes match those on file, a move that Love’s Democratic opponent said Wednesday “smacks of desperation.”
As of Wednesday evening, Love was trailing Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) by 873 votes, or 0.36 percentage point, in the race for Utah’s 4th Congressional District. That margin is narrower than the 6,700 votes by which McAdams was leading Nov. 8. Utah law allows candidates to request a recount when the margin of victory is 0.25 percentage point or less.
In the lawsuit, news of which was first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, Love’s campaign argues that the Salt Lake County clerk has allowed poll monitors to observe the ballot-counting process but has denied them the ability to challenge signatures on ballot envelopes.
Voting by mail is popular in Utah. In the state’s primary elections earlier this year, 90 percent of ballots were cast by mail.
The lawsuit states Love and her campaign “do not anticipate a large number of challenges” but that poll monitors “have observed myriad instances where a county worker verified a signature on a ballot envelope that did not appear to match the signature on file with the County.”
The Salt Lake County Clerk’s office did not respond to a request for comment. County clerks have until Nov. 20 to finish counting ballots. The state’s election results are set to be finalized Nov. 26.
In a tweet Wednesday, McAdams denounced Love’s move, saying, “Utah voters deserve better than this.” He took aim at the fact that her lawsuit targets Salt Lake County, McAdams’s home base.
“It is the job of election officials to decide what votes count, not political candidates,” McAdams said. “Rep. Love’s decision to sue only in [Salt Lake County] as she continues to trail in this race is unfortunate and smacks of desperation.”
Robert Harrington, the attorney representing Love, said in a statement that the campaign is “not accusing anyone of anything” but submitted the petition with the goal of improving the election process.
“We have great respect for the critical and, at times, complex ballot-counting process,” Harrington said. “As we’ve spent hours observing these efforts, we’ve found a few instances where increased transparency and scrutiny are needed.”
The race is one of a handful across the country that remain unresolved more than a week after Election Day. Others include Florida’s Senate and gubernatorial contests as well as the race for the Georgia governor’s mansion.