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Two weeks after Election Day, the outcomes in a couple of races remain in question.
In Provo, Utah's third most populous city, one Municipal Council contest is muddier than ever after an abbreviated recount. In tiny Alta, the race for two Town Council seats remains only halfway decided, and in Santaquin, the result of a hotly disputed sewer bond has been reversed.
Utah County election officials began a recount Tuesday at the request of Bonnie Morrow, who trailed Gary Winterton 804 to 795 after last week's canvass in Provo's Municipal Council District 1 matchup. But the tallying was called off after what County Clerk-Auditor Bryan Thompson described as discrepancies surfaced.
"The [optical-scan] machines," Thompson said, "were showing a wild inconsistency from the official counts."
Morrow, who attended the recount, said the numbers initially showed her winning when the recount was restarted and ultimately put on hold.
"[Chief Deputy Clerk-Auditor] Scott [Hogensen] said, 'Bonnie won, something must be wrong,' " Morrow recalled Tuesday. "They said they were going to look again."
Hogensen referred all questions to Thompson. "I'm busy fixing things," Hogensen said.
Thompson said Provo contracted with the county to run the elections. But instead of using the now-familiar Diebold electronic-voting units, the city opted to save money by going with optical-scan paper ballots read by machines from Denver-based Dominion Voting. The county uses those machines, Thompson added, for absentee and provisional ballots during county elections.
He said the results coming from the machine were not matching those of a control group, suggesting that some ballots were not being read properly.
Late Tuesday, after working with Dominion and the Lieutenant Governor's Office, Thompson said the county will resume the recount Wednesday morning as a hand recount. Thompson said the cause of the problem remains unknown.
Morrow said she wanted the recount done by hand but was told she would need to go to court to get that.
Thompson explained that there is no provision in Utah law for a hand count in an election and that machine tallies are preferred because they eliminate any subjectivity of human counters.
"The machines, if they are operating properly," he said, "are the most accurate method we have."
But under the circumstances, Thompson said, the state assured him he had the authority to do a hand count.
It's not the first time Utah County has encountered problems with election results. In 2004, a computer glitch dropped 33,000 ballots 22 percent of the votes cast from the totals.
In Alta, four candidates ran for two at-large seats, with the two top vote-getters set to take office.
Harris Sondak won with 74 votes, so he's in. And Mimi Levitt lost with 21 votes, according to Piper Lever, assistant town clerk, so she's out.
But the second seat is still up for grabs. Both Merebea Danforth and incumbent Steven "Piney" Gilman got 60 votes.
The Salt Lake County clerk will conduct a recount by Dec. 2. If they remain tied, Lever said, the decision will come down to something like a coin toss.
In Murray's District 1, City Council hopeful Phil Markham could push for a recount as well. But he said Tuesday he has no plans to do so after Tuesday's canvass widened David Nicponski's unofficial two-vote edge to six. The final official tally: 471 to 465.
Meanwhile, a recount of Santaquin's sewer bond reversed the initial result that shot down the $9.9 million proposal.
The results from last week's canvass showed that the $9 million bond failed 699 to 696, while the $900,000 supplemental bond passed 697 to 693, prompting a call for a recount from Councilman-elect Richard Payne.
Both ballot questions had to be approved for the Utah County city to proceed with upgrading its sewage plant, which is operating over capacity.
City Manager Benjamin Reeves said the recount, conducted late Monday, showed voters approved the larger bond 698 to 695 and the supplemental bond 697 to 691.
In Bluffdale, City Council candidate Ty Nielsen widened his victory margin over Craig Briggs from six to eight votes when the election results were certified. City Recorder Teddie Bell said there would be no recount, because the gap is greater than the number of voting precincts in the city. Heather Pehrson and Bruce Kartchner also were elected to council seats.
Tribune reporters Christopher Smart and Katie Drake contributed to this report.