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Love lawsuit over Salt Lake Co. ballot-counting dismissed

Mayor Ben McAdams and Rep. Mia Love, the candidates for Utah's 4th district. (Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, over the counting of ballots in Salt Lake County, with prejudice.

Love and her campaign sued to ask a judge to order Salt Lake County to stop counting ballots in the 4th District congressional race so her campaign could review signatures on those ballot affidavits.

At a hearing over the matter Thursday, Judge James Gardner asked why the campaign’s lawyer had not also sued the county clerks for Utah County, Juab County and Sanpete County, all of which are covered by her congressional district. In the decision released Friday, he wrote:

[Love and her campaign] failed to point the Court to a single statute, rule or case that would entitle them to any of the relief sought in the Petition. Instead, the Love Parties effectively ask the Court to create expansive new rights for campaign involvement in ballot processing… the Court declines the Love Parties’ invitation to create new rights not found in the Election Code.

In a statement, Robert Harrington, Love’s lawyer, said, “Although we disagree with the outcome, we appreciate the Court’s attention to the issues raised in our Petition. We will continue to closely observe the integrity of this election process.”

The McAdams campaign also released a statement after the ruling.

“The McAdams campaign is pleased with Judge Gardner’s decision to reject Love’s attempt to stop the vote counting in Salt Lake County.” said Andrew Roberts, McAdams’ campaign manager. “We are happy to see that no 4th District voters will be disenfranchised.”

Legally, dismissing a case with prejudice means Love and her legal team cannot refile the same lawsuit. The dismissal itself, however, could still be appealed.

Even though Salt Lake County won the case, District Attorney Sim Gill is still angry the lawsuit was filed in the first place.   He calls the suit frivolous and disingenuous.

Gill says, “There is no fraud and there is no substantive violation of the law,” adding, “Our citizens don’t need that our community doesn’t need that and Sherrie Swensen doesn’t need that.”

He believes the suit was an attempt to spread seeds of doubt in the election process when there didn’t need to be any.

“We are not Florida and we’re not going down that rabbit hole by creating a right that doesn’t apply to create the kind of chaos they have in Florida,” Gill says.