ELECTION RESULT

Washington Co. House candidate may sue over recount audit

Jul 21, 2022, 4:30 PM | Updated: Nov 8, 2022, 11:36 am
Willie Billings is shown speaking...
Willie Billings speaks at the Washington County commissioner meeting on July 19, 2022. (Washington County)
(Washington County)

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah — A candidate for Utah’s House District 72 in Washington County has lost a recount by 10 votes. Now Willie Billings wants to sue because he didn’t like how the audit of the recount was handled. He also signaled his distrust for the counting machines.

During the recount, Washington County clerks recounted all of the primary election ballots because they are not able to separate out ballots to just count votes in District 72.

Then, they did a 3% random sample of that recount to check for accuracies. In a recount audit, green dots overlay the original vote to make sure the tally machine counted the votes right. Willie Billings claims those dots should have been counted, and counted by hand.

“I think we need to look into this deeper, do another one,” he said during a County Commission meeting Tuesday. “And if they had counted those votes [the green dots], and their count was equal to this one [the original recount] we’d say okay. They didn’t (do the counting).”

Washington County’s Clerk Susan Lewis said state law does not require that, especially by hand where human error is possible. The purpose of an audit recount is to make sure the tally machines counted correctly. The counting machines are also checked before counting starts for accuracy.

“What we’re trying to do is prove the accuracy of the vote,” Lewis said. “And we believe we did that.”

Furthermore, Lewis said every green overlay dot matched with every original vote cast on the ballots they audited. Meaning that the sample showed no discrepancies between the recount tally and the audit of that tally.

Willie Billings says he distrusts the machines

But Billings signaled he was leery of the count by the machines.

“There’s mass dissent in Washington County and across the country of lack of voter faith and trust in our election systems, and specifically in machines,” he said.

Billings further argued that the margin by which he won, using the same sample of the recounted ballots, was statistically too large to mean he lost the overall vote by only 10 votes.

“[I had a] 60-40 [percent] split,” he said of the recount sample of ballots. “That anomaly is not small, if that was one or two percent we’d go — okay (we lost). But it’s 20 percent. You can’t ignore that … something deeper has to be looked into that.”

The County Commissioners and Lewis told Billings repeatedly that the audit’s sample size was not representative of the overall results.

“You have some precincts that turned out very big for one candidate or another, and then other precincts that literally remained one vote apart,” said Commissioner Victor Iverson. “There is an explanation for that.”

By the end of the heated discussion, the commission certified the recount. Billing’s supporters booed as they walked out.

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Washington Co. House candidate may sue over recount audit