SALT LAKE CITY – Election officials are worried that a massive write-in campaign mounted by Republicans in the scandal-ridden Salt Lake County mayoral race could hold up final results in other races around the state.
The Republican incumbent, Nancy Workman, has been placed on paid administrative leave while she faces two felony charges for allegedly taking $17,000 in health department funds to place a bookkeeper at a boys and girls club where her daughter was a top financial officer.
Republican write-in candidate Ellis Ivory entered the mayoral race earlier this week, saying Workman didn't have a chance to win while she faces criminal charges.
Salt Lake County accounts for about 40 percent of Utah's population and nearly a majority of the state's active voters. More than 300,000 county residents are expected to cast ballots.
If many voters write in Ivory's name, that could force election workers to count tens of thousands of ballots by hand and delay results for days.
Salt Lake County election officials are making plans to ensure a quick but accurate count on Nov. 2. That could mean teams of volunteers working through the night or even taking shifts. But even the best-case scenario shows results may not be known until early in the morning after Election Day.
"It could be worse than that, actually," said County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, who huddled with officials Thursday to discuss the predicament. "It's just going to slow it down."
Technically, the results provided on election night are unofficial. They don't become official until elected leaders canvass the votes some two weeks later.
But politicians, the public and the media hunger for quick results.
"It's going to drive the news media crazy," state Elections Director Amy Naccarato said.
Still, Naccarato said officials would take the time necessary to ensure an accurate election.
"If it takes them a day or longer, I am not going to be screaming," she said. "The law says you do it until you're done. You don't want the whole election to be wrong because you did it too fast.