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Attorneys for Rep. Mel Brown have dropped their lawsuit demanding the counting of scores of disqualified ballots that could have tipped the outcome in Brown's razor-thin defeat.
Brown lost his Republican primary to Logan Wilde by nine votes, but 70 ballots were not counted because they were postmarked the day of the election.
State law says the ballots have to be postmarked the day before, but, Brown claims that, particularly in rural areas like the contested House District 53, mail dropped off one day is shipped to Salt Lake City and postmarked the following day. The U.S. Postal Service, however, says mail receives a postmark the same day as long as it is received before a post office's last dropoff time.
Brown filed a lawsuit on Aug. 12, asking the court to order that the ballots be counted; the Utah Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis.
In a hearing last week, the justices seemed concerned that there would be no way to figure out how many, if any, of the ballots were actually dropped in the mailbox in time and postmarked the next day. Counting them all could mean including ballots that were mailed late.
The state argued that the law clearly says the ballots have to be postmarked before Election Day, that there is no gray area and that the state believes the post office actually did stamp the ballots on the day they were received.
The court set an aggressive schedule for the case, and on Monday, Brown's attorneys informed the court that they could not make the required deadlines.
"While petitioner still believes he has a meritorious case, the restricted timeline imposed on this case renders further pursuit of this matter impossible," attorneys for Brown said in their motion to dismiss the case, which was filed Monday afternoon.
Brown is the longest-tenured member of the Utah House, having served two different stints totaling 24 years. He formerly served as speaker of the House.
Wilde is a Morgan County rancher and has served on the County Council since 2013.