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A recount of election results in the hotly contested House District 32 race has not changed the outcome, as Republican Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, increased his margin of victory over Democrat Suzanne Harrison from three votes to five votes.
Attorneys for both candidates hovered over the count, monitoring the process closely as elections officials spent Monday re-tabulating more than 17,000 votes, feeding ballots through counting machines and scrutinizing dozens of ballots that had been disqualified or damaged.
For now, Christensen is the unofficial winner. The Salt Lake County Council will meet Tuesday to officially adopt the results.
Christensen, sponsor of the 2004 Utah constiutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, is one of the most vocal social conservatives in the Legislature. Harrison is head of the anesthesiology department at Riverton Hospital.
A legal challenge remains a possibility.
The Democratic Party has seven affidavits from voters verifying their votes on ballots that were disqualified because the signature on the ballot didn't match the signature on file. Those documents were submitted a few hours after the deadline to be included in the initial count, but the party contends they should be included in the recount.
"There's a lot of information from today that needs to be processed so we can evaluate how we want to proceed from here," said Charles Stormont, the attorney representing the party. "Nobody's made that decision yet."
A total of five ballots that were initially disqualified were added to the final results two of which added to Christensen's lead.
One had been counted as a straight-party vote for Harrison, but was subtracted from the Democrat's column because the voter crossed out the straight party line. The other was a vote for Christensen that had been disqualified as an over-vote because of marks in other races.
Those three came from a group of ballots that had been disqualified for various reasons 32 mail-in ballots had been disqualified because of mismatching signatures, 50 were not signed, and 64 were returned too late.
One ballot had been disqualified because the signature initially was deemed to not match the signature in the voter file, but on review all sides agreed the signature was close enough to be counted.
One ballot had a signature that didn't match but the voter had returned an affidavit verifying the vote before the deadline, but it was overlooked in the original count.
The fifth ballot was dropped off in Davis County on Election Day and mailed to Salt Lake County, but had been disqualified because it was postmarked after Election Day. Typically, the votes are counted, even if they are dropped off in the wrong county, and it was added.
State law allows for a recount if the margin of victory is within 0.25 percent.
Rozan Mitchell, Salt Lake County elections director, said it's common for the results to change slightly during a recount.
"We know there could be discrepancies and that's why we do a recount, to look at those things and re-examine everything," she said. "Our staff has spent so many hours in the last week getting everything ready and prepped for this to make sure we do a second look at this and if we did miss something we have an explanation of why."