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McAdams gains 405-vote lead over Owens in Utah 4th District race

U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-UT, once again took the lead in the Utah 4th Congressional District race as additional ballots were processed on Friday in Utah and Salt Lake counties.

Republican Burgess Owens gained a lead on Thursday evening over the Democratic incumbent, who had a slight lead on election night, when Utah County and Salt Lake County updated their results, giving Owens 132,647 votes, 47.99% and McAdams 130,363 votes, 47.16%, and putting the Republican ahead by 2,284 votes.

Two small ballot dumps by the Utah County Elections Division on Friday did little to change things, with Owens gaining 62 votes and McAdams gaining 54 votes.

But shortly after, a Salt Lake County ballot dump of about 15,000 ballots gave McAdams 8,330 additional votes and Owens an additional 5,633 votes, putting McAdams back in the lead with 138,747 total votes statewide, 47,60%, compared to Owens with 138,342 votes, 47.46% — a difference of 405 votes.

Utah County officials estimate there are a few hundred 4th District ballots left to count in the county, where Owens holds a commanding 40-point lead.

Utah County Elections Director Rozan Mitchell said election staff are “trying to identify and count them (4th District ballots) first” since the race is so tight.

“There will just be some loose ends to tie up throughout the coming week,” Mitchell told the Daily Herald on Friday.

It is unclear how many remaining ballots in the 4th District race there are left in Salt Lake County, where McAdams holds a 13-point lead, but some estimate it could be around 59,000.

In Sanpete County, where voters favor the Republican candidate by 55 points, there are an estimated 40 ballots in the 4th District race that are currently being reviewed due to signature discrepancies or other issues, according to the Sanpete County Clerk’s Office.

There are a few hundred more provisional ballots left to be counted, though it is unclear how many of them are in the 4th District. The county clerk’s office, which last updated results on Wednesday, told the Daily Herald it will release more results early next week.

There are no ballots left to count in Juab County, according to the Juab County Clerk’s Office, where Owens has a 66-point lead.

In a written statement, Andrew Roberts, McAdams’ campaign manager, said the campaign “remain(s) confident that Ben will be re-elected.”

“Again, we’re seeing numbers go back and forth as additional votes are tallied,” the campaign manager said. “We are grateful to Utah’s election clerks for their deliberate, thorough work on behalf of Utah voters and candidates.”

Libertarian Party candidate John Molnar and United Utah Party candidate Jonia Broderick have gotten 3.06% and 1.87% of votes, respectively.

MTECH-Micron partnership makes donating computers to students a remote certainty

Mountainland Technical College and Micron came together on Friday to give out computers to children in need from the Alpine School District at MTECH’s Lehi campus.

The organization providing the computers, Computers for Kids, is based out of Boise but has been partnering with Micron for about 20 years to take old computers, refurbish them and then give them back to children in the Boise area.

The program is now making its way to Utah.

The computers come with Microsoft Office already installed, and if the students are on any type of free lunch program, health and welfare program or food stamps, they receive the devices for free. If not, the children can get the devices for $65.

The organization also offers devices with higher processors and more storage, which are available at an added cost unless students are scholars.

The devices come with a keyboard, mouse, cables and monitors as well as receiving a year of tech support for free with every computer.

“What we’re trying to do is keep the price low but get all the kids systems,” said Molli Wingert, Computers for Kids president. “Our goal is that every child has a computer system in their home.”

A large number of the devices that were donated to Computers for Kids are from Micron. The company gives its workers a new laptop every four years as well as a new desktop every six years, leading to a large amount of electronic surplus.

The company instead donates the devices, has them wiped clean to avoid any security concerns and then the computers are given to children in need.

Of the roughly 50,000 devices that Computers for Kids has given to children, Wingert estimated that about 35,000 of them have come from Micron. The donations also keep computers out of landfills, where they would have ended up if not for the donation.

“It’s amazing,” said Dave Cheffings, vice president of Micron’s Utah facility. “We were a joint venture before, we were IM Flash, and now that we are Micron, we are able to do this and contribute. It makes me feel good, it makes all of the team members feel good that we are giving back to the community. Particularly right now with the COVID situation and remote learning it’s even more important to get those computers out to kids.”

On Thursday, MTECH students laid out all of the devices, made sure they all turned on, ensured that the monitors worked and then cleaned up the machines before organizing them for the event.

Then in a drive-in style, cars began pulling up to receive the devices they applied for on the Computers for Kids website.

When the application for the Utah event first opened, there had only been one application in the first three weeks. That changed once the largest school district in the state got involved.

The Alpine School District sent out the application to the computers and it blew up.

“We are so appreciative of Computers for Kids and this partnership with MTECH and Micron technologies and what they’re offering for students in the Alpine School District,” Alpine School District spokesperson David Stephenson said. “Currently we have 4,400 students that are fully at home online and this is just going to make some of their lives easier.”

Student engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big question for school districts due to the mixed learning, both in-person and online. Without a device at home, or maybe only one device and multiple children, students are having an even tougher time.

Computers for Kids offers an opportunity to help solve this problem locally.

“We’re excited for the future with this partnership and the opportunity to really provide access for all students whether they’re at home or at school,” Stephenson said. “For them to be able to benefit from nice computers that are otherwise just sitting around, this company is amazing to where they can clean them up and get them out to our students either free or at a really reduced rate. It’s going to make a difference for so many students who are at home for whatever reason, to be able to still access curriculum and progress with their academic studies.”

The next step for Computers for Kids and Micron, as they expand into Utah from Idaho, is to get other companies involved with the program.

Cheffings added that many companies are worried about donating old devices due to the security risks that come with it. Has all of the old data been wiped? what about the software the company previously had on the device?

He said that other companies go through devices like Micron does and he hopes they will join the program to help more kids.

“We just don’t have enough devices but what we’re hoping is that Micron can lead the way and we can get other companies to join,” Cheffings said. “I think we need to get other companies to understand that the IP is protected, it’s wiped and everything is secure so they shouldn’t have to worry about that.”

With more companies flooding into Utah County, the hope is to expand the operation to benefit more children in need locally.

Provo Scout soars past Eagle, earns all 137 merit badges

When Neal Smalley, of Provo, was an 11-year-old Boy Scout, he attended a 14-year-old friend’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor. He left that Court of Honor vowing to earn his Eagle Scout award at an earlier age than his friend had.

Two years later at age 13, Smalley became an Eagle Scout.

With the Eagle Scout being the ultimate pinnacle of success for Boy Scouts, Smalley could have taken that Eagle and just sailed through the rest of Scouting. Instead, he soared.

According to his mother, Pam Smalley, Neal had more to learn.

When family and friends asked what he would do next, he announced that he was going to aim high and earn all 137 merit badges in the Scouting program.

The now-17-year-old Smalley just recently accomplished his goal and joined a small, elite group of young men to earn every merit badge available in Scouting.

“I have been in Scouts since I was 11,” Smalley said. “I locked down and aimed for this goal after I got my Eagle at 13. (Earning all 137 merit badges) was the result of four years of focused merit badge work.”

His Scoutmaster, Scott Anderson of Troop 707 located in Orem and Provo, was one of several people who helped Neal on his journey. In all his years in Scouting, Anderson has known only one other young man who completed all 137 merit badges.

“It is extraordinary he was able to do that,” Anderson says. “You definitely have to be committed to accomplish it. Neal is very focused and committed. He had some struggles with a couple of merit badges and had to work hard to get them.”

Looking back, Smalley agrees that the last two merit badges were the most difficult, especially SCUBA diving, which took two years and multiple tries to finish.

“SCUBA diving was the hardest by far,” Smalley said. “All the other merit badges require some type of skill like tying a knot or hiking forever. But SCUBA is a mental thing. You are under water, and it’s not a natural thing to breathe under water. It’s darker and a little disorienting. I had a good counselor, Darren Gibson, who helped me through it.”

Pam Smalley agrees. “His last badge (SCUBA) was so hard,” she said. “It took him two years. There were physical and psychological things to overcome.”

His diving badge was accomplished at The Crater geothermal diving area at the Homestead in Midway.

“It looks like aliens built it,” Pam Smalley said. “You can go down 60 feet and then it looks like there is no bottom.”

During his second dive, Smalley got disoriented and confused. “He was shaken,” Pam Smalley said. “He took a bit of a break and talked with us (his mom and dad), and then said he was ready to go again.”

He had to go through four dives at different feet, take the breathing apparatus out of his mouth, rise to a certain level and do other safety requirements, Pam Smalley said.

“He stuck with it and overcame the obstacle,” she said. “He doesn’t brag about anything. He did it for himself. There is no award for getting all of the badges.”

She added that her son knew he couldn’t do it without the help of many people and he appreciates all who worked with him through the years.

Another challenging merit badge for Smalley was bugling. He ended up borrowing a bugle and eventually was able to finish the requirements.

What was his favorite merit badge?

“I really liked welding,” Smalley said. “The mentors were encouraging and nice, and it was a fun topic. Welding is fun.”

In fact, Smalley signed up for an advanced welding class at Timpview High School as a result of his merit badge experience. He also enjoyed earning his horseback riding merit badge.

It was Smalley’s parents that really worked with him. His father not only took SCUBA lessons with him, but also went hiking and backpacking with him.

On one occasion they decided to go camping. The ranger told them to be careful about bears in the area. Once they got to the campground, they realized it was hunting season and had to have someone deliver orange shirts to their camp so they wouldn’t get shot by hunters.

Smalley’s scouting sash is filled up front and back with all the merit badges he has earned, including a few on the inside because there isn’t enough room to put them all on one sash.

“I think if you enjoy scouting and have all the people who will help you follow through with that goal, it is worth pursuing. There are a ton of memories I now enjoy that I would have missed out on if I hadn’t done it,” Smalley said.

Smalley started Scouts in a troop sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When the church dropped Scouts, he joined Troop 707, which meets in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Provo. The troop has 29 boys and 11 girls.

The count goes on — with Biden on the cusp of presidency

WASHINGTON — Democrat Joe Biden stood on the cusp of winning the presidency Friday night, three days after Election Day, as the long, exacting work of counting votes widened his lead over President Donald Trump in critical battleground states.

High turnout, a massive number of mail-in ballots and slim margins between the two candidates all contributed to the delay in naming a winner. But Biden held leads in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia, putting him in an ever-stronger position to capture the 270 Electoral College votes needed to take the White House.

There was intense focus on Pennsylvania, where Biden led Trump by more than 27,000 votes, and Nevada, where the Democrat led by about 22,000. The prolonged wait added to the anxiety of a nation facing historic challenges, including the surging pandemic and deep political polarization.

Biden was at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, as the vote count continued, and aides said he would address the nation late in the evening. Trump stayed in the White House and out of sight, as more results trickled in and expanded Biden’s lead in must-win Pennsylvania. In the West Wing during the day, televisions remained tuned to the news amid trappings of normalcy, as reporters lined up for coronavirus tests and outdoor crews worked on the North Lawn on a mild, muggy fall day.

Trump’s campaign was mostly quiet — a dramatic difference from the day before, when officials held a morning call projecting confidence and then a flurry of press conferences announcing litigation in key states.

A handful of states remained in play Friday evening — Georgia, North Carolina too early to call along with Pennsylvania and Nevada. In all four states the margins between Trump and Biden were too narrow and the number of ballots left to be counted too great for the AP to declare a victor.

In Pennsylvania, officials were not allowed to begin processing mail-in ballots until Election Day under state law. In Nevada, there were a number of provisional ballots cast by voters who registered on Election Day, and officials had to verify their eligibility. And recounts could be triggered in both Pennsylvania and Georgia.

With his pathway to reelection appearing to greatly narrow, Trump was testing how far he could go in using the trappings of presidential power to undermine confidence in the vote.

On Thursday, he advanced unsupported accusations of voter fraud to falsely argue that his rival was trying to seize power. It was an extraordinary effort by a sitting American president to sow doubt about the democratic process.

“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” Trump said from the podium of the White House briefing room.

He took to Twitter late Friday to pledge further legal action, tweeting that “Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!”

Trump did claim that he won late on Election Night. He also tweeted that he had “such a big lead in all of these states late into election night, only to see the leads miraculously disappear as the days went by,” although it was well known that votes cast before Tuesday were still being legally counted.

Biden spent Thursday trying to ease tensions and project a more traditional image of presidential leadership. After participating in a coronavirus briefing, he declared that “each ballot must be counted.”

“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” Biden said. “It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president of the United States of America.”

Trump’s erroneous claims about the integrity of the election challenged Republicans now faced with the choice of whether to break with a president who, though his grip on his office grew tenuous, commanded sky-high approval ratings from rank-and-file members of the GOP. That was especially true for those who are eyeing presidential runs of their own in 2024.

Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, a potential presidential hopeful who has often criticized Trump, said unequivocally: “There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process. America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before.”

But others who are rumored to be considering a White House run of their own in four years aligned themselves with the incumbent, including Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who tweeted support for Trump’s claims, writing that “If last 24 hours have made anything clear, it’s that we need new election integrity laws NOW.”

Trump’s campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity, saying it would seek a recount in Wisconsin and had filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.

On Friday evening, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito approved a GOP request ordering county boards to comply with state guidance to keep the late ballots separate from those received before or on Election Day. However, Alito did not direct election officials to stop counting the ballots, as the Republicans had also sought.

But judges in three states quickly swatted down legal action. A federal judge who was asked to stop vote counts in Philadelphia instead forced the two sides to reach an agreement without an order over the number of observers allowed.

“Really, can’t we be responsible adults here and reach an agreement?” an exasperated U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond said during an emergency hearing Thursday evening. “The whole thing could (soon) be moot.”

The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in Arizona, where votes were also still being counted, including in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous area. The AP has declared Biden the winner in Arizona and said Thursday that it was monitoring the vote count as it proceeded.

“The Associated Press continues to watch and analyze vote count results from Arizona as they come in,” said Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor. “We will follow the facts in all cases.”