OGDEN Did Matthew Godfrey really win Ogden's mayoral election?
He certainly won round one Tuesday night with a 181-vote lead over challenger Susan Van Hooser. But what about round two, under way now?
Weber County has announced that approximately 500 absentee ballots, plus an undetermined number of provisional ballots, weren't counted Tuesday and have the potential to affect the outcome of the mayoral race and just about every other race in Weber County, too.
"It is county-wide," Gloria Berrett, elections administrator in the Weber County Clerk/Auditor's Office, said. She stressed that as such, all election results in Weber County will remain unofficial until the counting is complete.
"You can't officially declare anyone the winner yet," she said.
Weber County began the long process Wednesday of checking and verifying signatures on these ballots. Berrett said they could not be added into Tuesday's total for two reasons: first, because the county didn't even have all of these extra ballots until Wednesday, and second, some require a lot of extra work in verification and can't be sent by computer.
Her goal is to have all the extra verification/counting complete by Tuesday at noon. The Veterans Day holiday Monday delays the process an extra day.
"We're going as fast as we can," Berrett said, noting that the process is governed by state law and cannot be rushed. Legally, the County Clerk's Office has a maximum of seven days to complete the counting.
Berrett said her office has brought in some extra staff to help with the tedious process.
Ogden City Recorder Cindi Mansell said she heard an estimate of approximately 480 provisional ballots, so the total uncounted ballots could easily approach 1,000 enough to swing just about any election outcome in the county.
Provisional ballots are ones that were cast, but are not counted until verification that the voter actually lives in the district, or is a registered voter.
Godfrey is seeking a third term as mayor, while councilwoman Van Hooser would be the first female mayor of Ogden, if elected.
In a rare, for Utah, instance of vote-challenging, Godfrey supporters reportedly submitted a list of 146 names many of them people who had opposed Godfrey's administration to the Weber County Elections Office. Those names were passed out to polling stations, and when those voters arrived, they were not allowed to vote electronically, but were required to provide two forms of identification as well a proof of address, then were allowed to vote by provisional ballot, according to Weber County Clerk/Auditor Alan McEwan.
Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, said Tuesday that the list of challenged voters paired with untrained election officials to cause serious problems for voters. Some legitimate voters were told they could not vote when they arrived at the polls, Hansen said.
Dorothy Litrell, 78, said she spent seven hours Tuesday trying to vote. She had to visit her polling place three times and also spent time at county offices talking with officials there.
"I've never been so upset that I just shook all over," the three-year anti-Godfrey activist said Tuesday. "I have never spent such a terrible day. We've fought wars in this country over our right to vote."
Election officials should have been trained to offer provisional ballots more readily, Hansen said."As a state representative, this is going to be a topic of discussion," he said.