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State Rep. Mel Brown who lost his GOP primary by nine votes asked the Utah Supreme Court on Monday to order the state to count 70 ballots that were never opened because officials say they were mailed too late.
Brown, R-Coalville, contends that U.S. Postal Service practices in rural counties delay postmarks by a day, which he argues unfairly disqualified many ballots. That happens because mail in many of those areas is sent to the Salt Lake Central Post Office, where it is postmarked the next day.
"Logically speaking, it is by far most probable that the 70 voters mailed their ballots in their respective counties of residence on the day before the election," as required by law, Brown's lawsuit asserts. House District 53 includes parts of Daggett, Duchesne, Morgan, Rich and Summit counties.
The lawsuit added that Brown talked with many of the 70 people involved who said they had indeed mailed their ballots on time.
Brown asked the high court to order that the ballots be counted and if they change the outcome, that he be declared the winner.
A recount had certified Morgan County Commissioner Logan Wilde as the winner. He is currently working on a general election campaign against Democrat Cole Capener.
Legislators had discussed earlier this year problems that could come because of the Postal Service's practice of delaying postmarks by a day in some rural areas, but they took no corrective action.
Brown's lawsuit also asked that 32 ballots be counted that had been rejected either for lacking signatures or having signatures that did not match those on file.
He said state law requires county clerks to contact such voters to allow them to rectify the problem if their ballots are received early enough. Brown contends that clerks did not fully comply.
Mark Thomas, state elections director, said the lieutenant governor's office looked into that at Brown's request during a recount and found that the clerks had complied.
The lawsuit was filed directly with the Utah Supreme Court and seeks expedited action because of a quickly approaching Aug. 30 deadline for the lieutenant governor to certify ballots for the Nov. 8 general election. County clerks usually begin to order and print ballots shortly after that certification.
Brown, 78, has served two separate stints in the Legislature for a total of 24 years and currently is the longest-serving House member. He also is a former House speaker.