House tweaks rules on recounts, special elections

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The House passed two bills Tuesday to tweak election rules in Utah — changing when a recount may be requested, and when special elections may be scheduled.

It voted 72-0 to pass HB85 to allow a recount if the difference between votes for a winning and losing candidate is 0.25 percent or less of the total vote. Also in elections where 400 or fewer votes are cast, it allows a recount if the difference is just one vote.

Its sponsor, Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, said that would change the current system that allows a recount if the difference amounts to one vote or fewer per precinct. Because of wide differences in the number of precincts in many races, that has led to inconsistency.

For example for Utah House seats, the current system allows requesting a recount with widely different percentage differences, a range of 0.124 percent to 0.42 percent.

Hall said some have wrongly asserted the bill is a "sour grapes" attempt by Republicans to change rules because Mia Love was unable to request a recount in her close congressional race with Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. Hall said the difference in that race was 0.31 percent, and Love would still not have been able to request a recount under his bill.

The House also voted 73-1 to pass HB40 to allow special elections — such as for bonds or to fill vacancies — to occur only during regular primary or general elections. Its sponsor, Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, said that would lead to greater participation and awareness of such elections.

Both bills now go to the Senate for consideration.