Grand County Council member Mary McGann congratulates Moab City Council candidate Kalen Jones upon learning that Jones received the second-highest number of votes in the Nov. 3 general election. [Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News]

Nov. 1 was the Day of the Dead. But from Jean Binyon’s perspective, Nov. 3 was the “Night of the Living” for herself and other supporters of three progressive Moab City Council candidates.

The City of Moab’s unofficial pre-canvass election results show that progressives Rani Derasary, Kalen Jones and Tawny Knuteson-Boyd are the top three vote-getters for three at-large seats on the council.

Derasary led the way, with 727 votes, followed by 697 votes for Jones, and 677 votes for Knuteson-Boyd. Don Cook trailed 19 votes behind Knuteson-Boyd, with 658 votes, while Kelly Mike Green won 655 votes, and Cricket White-Green earned 654 votes.

However, the results are not final until the city council officially canvasses the vote within one to two weeks of the election, and Green is optimistic that the results could tip the balance in his favor by the time that any remaining absentee ballots are counted.

“I think there’s still some wiggle room,” he told the Moab Sun News. “Perhaps Don can get in; maybe I can.”

Grand County Republican Party chair Curtis Wells praised Derasary, Jones and Knuteson-Boyd for their hard work on the campaign trail. But he is not ready to concede – or to celebrate – until the outcome of the election is known.

“Although we are disappointed with the immediate results, there are still ballots to be counted and we’re anxiously waiting to see the final results,” he said.

As the candidates and their supporters waited until late Tuesday night for the city’s unofficial results to come in, the results from Grand County’s separate mail-in election on Proposition 1 were available almost immediately.

A commanding majority of voters approved the local option sales tax to fund transportation-related projects, with 1,370 votes for the measure, and 1,111 against it – a margin of 55.22 percent to 44.78 percent.

Grand County Clerk Diana Carroll said the county’s election went off “without a glitch,” noting that her office wrapped everything up just 14 minutes after the polls officially closed for the night.

But the city’s election didn’t run quite as smoothly.

Moab City Recorder Rachel Stenta said a company later identified as Carr Printing of Bountiful erroneously printed a number of primary election ballots, which the city distributed to one precinct at the Grand Center.

“The error was caught quickly and the issue was resolved for all ballots after that point,” she said in a statement.

After a voter discovered the error, Stenta’s office contacted the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office, which oversees elections in the state. Based on the direction her office received from the lieutenant governor’s and the state attorney general’s offices, the city resolved the issue in accordance with state code and will count the 10 flawed primary election ballots, she said.

Moab resident Janet Miller said she noticed the mistake when she showed up at her precinct some time around 11:30 a.m. on Election Day, and spotted primary election candidate M. Bryon Walston’s name on her ballot.

“I went ahead and voted, but I brought it to the attention of the election judges,” she said.

By that time, Miller said, others within her precinct had already voted, and apparently, they didn’t notice the errors before they turned in their ballots.

“It struck me as odd,” Miller said. “A lot of people put a lot of money and time and effort into this election … I would expect the city to get the ballot done right.”

Stenta said it was unfortunate that no one noticed the error until 10 ballots had already been cast, but she reiterated that the city acted promptly to resolve the issue.

“As soon as the error was caught, the error was corrected,” she said.

Of the 10 primary ballots that were cast during the general election, Walston received two votes, which is not enough to tip the balance one way or the other at this point.

Still, Wells said that Republicans have some concerns about the “many inconsistencies” that occurred at the polling places on Election Day.

Wells told the Moab Sun News that some GOP voters were turned away from their precincts without being able to fill out provisional ballots. In other cases, he said, Republican election observers were brushed aside when they tried to take photos of the voter rolls.

“We’ll continue to work with the city recorder to understand what happened and how this affected the results of the election,” he said. “We’re very interested in mitigating what concerns are out there for all voters so that we can avoid confusion like this in the future.”

On the upside, he said, voter turnout was exceptionally high for an odd-numbered year. According to the city’s unofficial results, just under 1,400 of Moab’s 2,302 registered voters cast ballots in the municipal election.

Although the candidates ran for seats that are nominally nonpartisan, the two major political parties were active behind the scenes and out in the open.

“It’s very clear that it’s Republicans versus Democrats,” Green said. “I am disappointed in that, because when I first started, I thought it would be nonpartisan.”

In spite of that divide, Knuteson-Boyd said that she values the suggestion that she should represent the community as a whole.

“The most constructive feedback I got was to cooperate with the citizens and the county, to make compromises, not to shut any group out and not to marginalize any group,” she said.

Derasary said the candidates ultimately had very few interactions with each other, aside from their side-by-side appearances at forums. There were no flare-ups during any of those events, and Derasary said she believes the campaigns were respectful of one another.

“I think we all tried to keep it professional and positive,” she said.

Despite their differing backgrounds and outlooks on life, Derasary thinks the candidates largely agreed about the city’s top priorities, including the demand for affordable housing, upgrades to city infrastructure and efforts to resolve Moab’s traffic-related issues.

“When it comes down to it, there weren’t really huge things that we disagreed about,” she said. “There are definitely smaller things, but I don’t think anybody doesn’t want new infrastructure.”

Green agreed that candidates on both sides appear to see eye-to-eye on the most pressing issues affecting Moab.

“The issues are pretty clear as far as the needs of the city are concerned,” he said.

The bone of contention, he said, is over the approach that the two sides would take to address those issues.

In terms of the city’s affordable housing problem, Knuteson-Boyd said she isn’t sure that the next council can solve it, although she’s certainly willing to give it her all.

“I don’t think that one city council – even if you do one term or two – can address the housing issue, but I would like to get a step up on it,” she said.

While the city council races may have overshadowed the county’s mail-in election, Grand County Council vice chair Chris Baird said he sees the wide margin of support for Proposition 1 as a victory for local residents.

“The passing of Proposition 1 will enable Grand County, the City of Moab and the Town of Castle Valley to take care of our fundamental road maintenance needs without placing the entire burden on local taxpayers,” he said. “It is only fair that we share the cost of road maintenance with our visitors via a sales tax instead of a locals-only assessment or property tax increase.”

Local option sales tax passes in county vote