Historic San Juan County mid-term election awaits official results
Nov 07, 2018 | 2908 views | 0 0 comments | 88 88 recommendations | email to a friend | print
John Fellmeth loads the final count vote card into the polling machines in Monticello on Nov. 6, 2018 as a Good4Utah camera captures the moment.  Staff photo
John Fellmeth loads the final count vote card into the polling machines in Monticello on Nov. 6, 2018 as a Good4Utah camera captures the moment. Staff photo
UPDATED: 2018 General Election results
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San Juan County Clerk Auditor John David Nielson calls in from Monument Valley to the polling station in Monticello at the courthouse. His cell phone service cuts in and out, as he attempts to give information about the Monument Valley count. His phone drops the call. It’s 9:10 p.m. on Election Day, one hour after the polls closed.

Deputy County Clerk James Francom calls in right after Nielson with information from Montezuma Creek. He’s just outside of Blanding, headed back to Monticello with a lockbox of counted ballots, as poll workers and county staff battle yawns and fatigue.

India Nielsen, a Special Assistant with the Lieutenant Governor's office, tails Francom on the way to the clerk’s office. She’s been tasked with observing the polling station Francom manned throughout the day.

Nielsen is unfamiliar with the area and follows Francom to Monticello not to observe the transport of the ballots, but rather to avoid getting lost on the 60 mile drive through dark desert terrain.

Nielsen and the Lieutenant Governor’s office aren’t the only ones monitoring the polling station that day. The Department of Justice and the Rural Utah Project also have officials looking over operations.

The subject of discussion back in the clerk’s office in Monticello centers around when official results will be available. If they count all the estimated 800 mail-in ballots grouped together in boxes and lock boxes on the floor, in addition to official results for Monument Valley, Montezuma Creek, and Navajo Mountain, the evening could run into the morning.

Francom emerges through the doors of the San Juan County Courthouse with the lockbox full of counted ballots from Montezuma Creek. The group waits for county clerk Nielson as he drives through the night headed for Monticello. Nielson arrives with the ballots from Monument Valley more than an hour after Francom.

The only remaining ballot box is being driven by Delton Pugh from Navajo Mountain. Pugh volunteered for the four and a half hour drive the day before. There is virtually no cell service on the trip. He did it because the person who had previously volunteered canceled at the last minute.

Salt Lake City media waits in the lobby, as they hope for the results of the County Commissioner District 2 race. It looks as though many of the local races are too close to call with 3,549 ballots officially counted.

There are still more than a thousand ballots left to count. Officials decide to begin the final counting process in the morning as media members pick through the results of Montezuma Creek and Monument Valley. Two votes for Willie Grayeyes – one for Kelly Laws in the results from Montezuma Creek. It brings the unofficial count of the District 2 commissioner race to 600 for Laws and 449 for Grayeyes.

When the votes for Monument Valley are counted, Grayeyes takes a 764-629 lead over Laws.

Phil Lyman holds 3,082 votes with three of the seven counties reporting results, not counting San Juan County. His opponent, Marsha Holland, stands at 1,116. The results in San Juan County come in with Lyman leading 2,380-1,520. Lyman now has an unofficial 5,462-2,636 lead. It’s one of a few races that can safely be called at the time.

Kenneth Maryboy and Bruce Adams are clearly headed for new terms. Adams ran unopposed for the retention of his commission seat. Maryboy holds a 537-366 lead over the “write-in” as it’s written on the unofficial results spreadsheet. All write-in candidates are totaled in one number and later sorted out. Al Clarke is the only write-in candidate running against Maryboy.

Three of the five school board district races are clear calls. Lori Maughan, Merri B. Shumway, and Steven Black appear to be headed for reelection. The other two races for School Board Districts 4 and 5 are within a few votes and can’t be called until the remaining 800 mail-in ballots are counted. Lucille Cody holds a 217-191 lead over her opponent, Melvin Capitan Jr. It’s a 290-264 lead over Melinda Blackhorse for Nelson A. Yellowman.

During the Primary Election it took three days to get the official results after the final ballots were cast. That prospect increasingly seems to be destined to repeat itself, as the minutes slowly tick away.

Officials await the arrival of Pugh from Navajo Mountain as it nears midnight. The night is coming to an end and it becomes clear it will be a few days before a winner is decided for the District 2 commission seat. Nielson and Francom are back to work in the morning to count the remaining ballots, along with all the staff who have put in countless hours of work during the election season.

The remaining mail-in ballots are still in the same place they were the night before. Francom is busy early. He prints off the unofficial results in the clerk’s office. The Navajo Mountain results are in. Francom says the next scheduled official release of results will be on Friday.

After the Navajo Mountain results are tallied, Grayeyes still holds a 817-648 lead over Laws. All that remains to determine the race officially is mail-in ballots.

San Juan County and the nation await the results of the District 2. The morning following the first election with new districting still produces no definitive results. The prospect of a Maryboy and Grayeyes victory would give San Juan County the first Navajo-dominant commission in its 138-year organized history. A member of the Navajo Nation has never chaired the commission.

As unofficial and official results continue to come in over the course of the next day or days, the San Juan Record will update this developing story.
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