Park City Council contest, with razor-thin margin, may head to a recount
The two-vote margin between the sixth-place finisher in the Park City Council primary election — Chadwick H. Fairbanks III — and the person in seventh place — Daniel Lewis — is so narrow after the initial counting that there is a possibility the final tally would fall within the range that a recount could be requested.
Fairbanks, with 167 votes, and Lewis, who garnered 165 votes, are vying for the final spot on the ballot on Election Day in November. Five other candidates appear to have the votes needed to advance to the general election. The final numbers will not be tallied until the canvass, scheduled on Aug. 27. Fairbanks and Lewis at that point would need to quickly decide whether to request a recount if the numbers are close enough to allow such a request.
The preliminary tally on Tuesday did not include ballots left in drop boxes after 3 p.m. on Tuesday, ballots cast at a vote center on Tuesday and ballots that were sent through the mail with a Monday postmark deadline that had not yet arrived at the Summit County Clerk’s Office. There were approximately 220 ballots outstanding by Thursday morning. The county clerk must qualify them as valid to be added to the total. Kent Jones, the Summit County clerk, said he does not expect to conduct another count until the canvass.
A candidate may request a recount if the margin between themselves and another candidate is equal to or less than one quarter of 1 percent of the total number of votes. In the case of the primary election, that figure is currently eight or nine votes. The figure will change, though, based on the number of ballots that remain outstanding. The request must be made within three days of the canvass.
The two votes separating Fairbanks and Lewis are well within the required margin as of the count on Tuesday. Jones said a recount would be conducted in the same fashion as the initial tallying on Tuesday as the ballots are put into the counting machine again.
“The technology is good enough with the optical-scan machine that the odds of a recount changing the total is pretty slim,” Jones said.
Recounts are rare in elections administered by the Summit County Clerk’s Office. Jones said he could recall two recounts over the past 20-plus years, including one in a Statehouse election.
Fairbanks is a consultant and an entrepreneur who lives in Old Town and has lived in Park City for approximately two years. He has unsuccessfully sought the chairmanship of the Utah Republican Party and twice campaigned without success for the 1st Congressional District seat — once as a Republican and once as an independent.
Lewis is an event organizer who has worked with high-profile Park City not-for-profit groups. He lives in Old Town and has lived in Park City for 18 years.
Fairbanks in an interview said he would initiate a recount if Lewis wins the seat and the vote total of Lewis increases by a “lopsided number” as a result of the canvass. He said the county clerk manages elections well and the margin of error in an election like the City Council contest likely involves just a few votes.
Lewis said in an interview he would “most definitely” request a recount if he remains in seventh place and the difference is within the required margin. He said it is a legal right to request a recount.
“I would just prefer a recount because it’s so extremely close,” Lewis said. “Just to make sure.”
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