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AP Election Brief | What to expect in Utah’s special congressional primary

Sep 1, 2023, 3:54 AM

FILE - Bruce Hough and Celeste Maloy shake hands before the start of a 2nd Congressional District R...

FILE - Bruce Hough and Celeste Maloy shake hands before the start of a 2nd Congressional District Republican primary debate for outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart's seat, Friday, Aug. 4, 2023, in Farmington, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three Republicans will compete in a special primary election in Utah next week for their party’s nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, the six-term GOP lawmaker who will step down on Sept. 15.

Vying for the nomination on Tuesday are former state representative Becky Edwards, businessman and former state party chairman Bruce Hough, and attorney and former Stewart aide Celeste Maloy. Delegates at the party’s special district convention in June preferred Maloy over Edwards, Hough and others, but Edwards and Hough both collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot and force a vote in Tuesday’s special primary. Hough is the father of professional dancers Julianne and Derek Hough from the reality competition show “Dancing with the Stars.”

Edwards has led the field in fundraising, bringing in $379,000 in contributions while loaning herself an additional $300,000 from personal funds. Maloy outraised Hough in contributions, but Hough loaned his campaign more than $334,000. Edwards more than doubled both Maloy’s and Hough’s spending power heading into the final three weeks of the campaign.

Maloy and Hough debated in early August, showing relatively little daylight between them on key issues. Edwards skipped the event.

Tuesday’s winner will face Democrat Kathleen Riebe in a special general election on Nov. 21. Riebe won her party’s nomination at a district convention in June.

The state’s congressional district boundaries face an ongoing court challenge, but the 2nd Congressional District, which has been reliably Republican, covers much of the same area in Western and Southwest Utah as it has since before Stewart took office. Stewart won five of his six elections with at least 59% of the vote.

Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:

ELECTION DAY

Utah will hold a special primary on Tuesday. Polls close at 8 p.m. local time (MT), which is 10 p.m. ET.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT

The Associated Press will provide coverage of the Republican special primary in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District. The winner will advance to the special general election on Nov. 21 and face Riebe. Also on Tuesday’s ballots are municipal primaries throughout the state.

WHO GETS TO VOTE

The special congressional primary is limited to registered Republicans; Democrats, independents and members of third parties may not participate.

DECISION NOTES

Special primary elections tend to have lower voter turnout compared to those of regularly scheduled elections. In a particularly close three-way contest, the margin between the first- and third-place candidates may be a relatively small number of votes. This may slow the race-calling process as a handful of absentee, provisional or other untallied ballots could play a decisive role in determining the result.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

There is no mandatory or automatic recount provision in Utah, but a losing candidate may request a recount if the vote margin is 0.25 percentage points or less. In elections with fewer than 400 total votes cast, not applicable to Tuesday’s contest, recounts may be requested if the winning margin is one vote. The AP may declare a winner in a race that is eligible for a recount if it can determine the lead is too large for a recount or legal challenge to change the outcome.

WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE?

As of Monday, there were almost 1.7 million active voters registered in Utah, according to state records. Of those, about 879,000 are Republicans (53%), 232,000 are Democrats (14%), 469,000 are independent or unaffiliated (28%) and the remaining (6%) belong to various third parties. Turnout for the 2022 GOP primary for U.S. Senate was 22%. In the 2020 presidential primaries, voter turnout was 20% for Republicans and 13% for Democrats.

Elections in Utah are conducted predominantly by mail, although voters have the option of voting in person on Election Day. Mail ballots may be received by Sept. 19 but must be postmarked by Tuesday.

As of Thursday, a total of 50,419 votes had been cast before Election Day, mostly from Republicans (87%) with the balance from Democrats (5%) and independents and members of third parties (8%).

HOW LONG DOES VOTE-COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?

In the 2022 general election in the 2nd Congressional District, the AP first reported results at 10:37 p.m. ET, or 37 minutes after polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 4:07 a.m. ET with about 71% of the total votes counted.

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AP Election Brief | What to expect in Utah’s special congressional primary