SALT LAKE CITY — Utah voters decided a number of issues, sent some familiar faces back to work and also elected some new leaders in a variety of positions on Election Day 2018. Here’s a breakdown of the preliminary highlights, which will be finalized in two weeks when the state’s canvass of all votes is complete.
Senate: Mitt Romney defeats Jenny Wilson to replace Sen. Orrin Hatch
Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is finally headed to Washington, to represent Utah in the United States Senate. With 62.43% of the vote, Romney easily defeated Democratic challenger Jenny Wilson, who got 31.48% of the vote. Constitution Party candidate Tim Aalders and Libertarian candidate Craig Bowden each received more than 2% of the vote, followed by Independent American candidate Reed McCandless at just over 1%.
U.S. House: District 1
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, heads back to Washington for another term representing District 1, which he indicated in a debate earlier this year may be his last. He won by a margin of 62.81% to Democratic challenger Lee Castillo’s 24.43%. In a strong showing for the United Utah party, Eric Eliason picked up 11.05% of the vote. Green party candidate Adam Davis won 1.72% of the vote.
U.S. House: District 2
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, will retain his 2nd District seat in the House of Representatives, with 57.93% of the popular vote. He defeated Democrat Shireen Ghorbani, who picked up 37.59% of the vote, and Libertarian Jeffrey Whipple, who picked up 4.48% of the vote.
U.S. House: District 3
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, keeps his job as 3rd District representative for the state of Utah, with 66.92% support. He defeated Democratic challenger James Singer, who had 28.67% of the vote according to early results. Independent American candidate Gregory Duerden and United Utah party candidate Timothy Zeidner each picked up just over 2% of the vote.
U.S. House: District 4
In the most closely contested of Utah’s congressional races, it appears Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, a Democrat, has defeated Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, with a margin still considered too close to call. As of Wednesday morning, McAdams was leading Love by 51.39% to 48.61%. Some Utah County residents who registered to vote on Election Day were still in line late at night, alongside others who chose to vote in person rather than mail-in their ballots. As a result, it’s unclear how many ballots remain uncounted in that race, and particularly in Utah County, which leans heavily Republican.
Election Day propositions and voter questions
Utah voters also decided a number of ballot initiatives and voter questions, ranging from issues like whether to raise the gas tax to increase funding for transportation (and therefore, education) to the legalization of medical marijuana. Here’s where those initiatives and questions stand.
Constitutional Amendment A
Constitutional Amendment A, which would expand property tax exemptions for military service members in Utah, passed with 78.38% of the vote. The state constitutional amendment says in order to get the exemption, service members must serve 200 days in a period of 365 consecutive days. Their service dates do not to be continuous, and they do not need to occur within a single calendar year. Changes will take effect January 1.
Constitutional Amendment B
Voters defeated a measure that would have given property tax exemptions to private property owners who lease space to state government. The measure was defeated with about 72.36% of voters against the proposal. Utah voters defeated a very similar proposal in 2016 as well.
Constitutional Amendment C
Lawmakers will be able to call themselves into special session under special circumstances under state constitutional Amendment C, which passed with 63.41% support from voters. Lawmakers would have the power to convene a special session of their own in the event of “a fiscal crisis, war, natural disaster, or emergency in the affairs of the state.” Calling a session would require a two-thirds majority vote from both the House and the Senate. The new amendment becomes state law January 1.
Non-binding Opinion Question 1
Utahns voted against raising the gas tax in the state by a margin of 66.13% to 33.87%. The question was intended to gauge support for an increase in the gas tax to shore up funding for transportation, in an effort to make sure more of the state’s General Fund gets to schools. A poll conducted earlier this fall suggested voters were very split on the idea, with one pollster theorizing the complicated way the money would be routed to education being a factor in its lack of support.
Voters have approved legalizing medical marijuana in Utah, but under a compromise deal reached before Election Day, the proposition that passed overnight may look a lot different by the time it becomes the law of the land. Support for Proposition 2 was at 53.16% early Wednesday morning, with some ballots still being counted. The governor has agreed to call a special session soon after Election Day to fix what many opponents saw as flaws in the proposition as originally crafted.
Medicaid expansion is coming to Utah, with 54.09% of voters in favor of the measure. State officials estimate the proposition will add 150,000 Utah residents to the Medicaid program. It would raise sales taxes from 4.7% to 4.85% on non-food items in Utah and bring in an additional $800 million in federal money, which is already set aside from Washington, D.C. Currently, 33 other states receive federal funding from their expanded Medicaid programs.
A measure that would establish an independent commission to take charge of recommending redistricting maps in the future for Utah appears to be narrowly passing, though with some ballots still being counted, the results may change. The latest tally from the state elections office shows 50.29% of voters support establishing a redistricting commission, to 49.71% opposed.
What happens now?
All of the results so far are considered preliminary. The remaining mail-in ballots that were postmarked on time but had not yet arrived at county clerks’ offices or had not yet been counted, along with any in-person ballots still to be counted as of Wednesday morning, will be tabulated in the coming days. Two weeks after the election, the lieutenant governor’s office, which oversees elections in Utah, will certify all results in a final canvass.
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