Park City-area election: ‘the stress goes on’ amid coronavirus scare at Clerk’s Office
The competitors in the campaign for District 54 of the state House of Representatives were expected to end Election Day night as they began the first Tuesday of November: unaware who won the coveted legislative seat.
District 54 stretches between Summit County and Wasatch County and is co-anchored by Park City and Heber City. The campaign between Democrat Meaghan Miller and Republican Mike Kohler is one of the most intriguing on the local ballot as the Democrats attempt to capture a legislative seat they have long wanted to flip. The incumbent, Republican Tim Quinn, did not seek reelection, giving Democrats hope in a district the party narrowly lost two years ago. There is anticipation the numbers will be similarly close this year. Miller was the Democratic candidate two years ago as well.
But as Election Day dawned, it appeared unlikely the results would be known on Tuesday night. The ballot counting in District 54 depends on election officials in Summit County and Wasatch County, and the Summit County Clerk’s Office on Monday announced a member of the staff had been exposed to someone diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The officials in Summit County stopped processing the ballots in the vote-by-mail election as a result of the exposure, meaning the results that were anticipated to be available on Tuesday would only involve the ballots received by Friday in the county.
It is likely thousands of ballots in Summit County, an unknown number of them sent by voters in District 54, will not be included in the results released on Tuesday. It also seems likely, then, the results in District 54 will not be available until the outstanding ballots are tallied.
A scenario could unfold involving Kohler holding a commanding lead after election night if he, as expected, performs well in Wasatch County. The contest will then await the final numbers from Summit County, where Miller will likely enjoy a strong showing. Both of the candidates are from the Midway area of Wasatch County, but Miller, a former Parkite, has made political inroads in the Park City area.
Miller in an interview on Monday noted that the results in the 2018 contest between herself and Quinn were not finalized until well after Election Day since the margin was so close.
“I’m no stranger to waiting. I had to wait two weeks in 2018,” she said, describing the stretch between Election Day and the calculation of the final results as a “little unnerving.”
She said there is “anxiety that comes with Election Day” anyway. She said the contest in District 54 was expected to be close enough that it would have been difficult for a winner to be declared on Election Day regardless of the circumstances in the Summit County Clerk’s Office.
Kohler, too, expects the voting will be close. He said he anticipates the results will be known prior to the canvass Nov. 17.
“The stress goes on. … It just seems like the campaign goes a long time,” he said.
Kohler added that it would be best that the results be finalized shortly.
“The sooner they can finish up, the better,” he said. “Not just for us. For everybody.”
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