Movement to audit 2020 Utah election with opposition from clerks and lieutenant governor

Those who support an election audit in Utah gather outside the Utah Capitol on October 20. A movement to challenge the 2020 election has met with opposition from Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Diedre Henderson. (Joël Campbell)

A legislative committee took no action after more than 200 people gathered outside the Utah State Capitol on Wednesday morning, Oct. 20, in favor of a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 election.

The rally was inspired by Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, who, in addition to an Arizona-style election audit, calls for an end to private donations to election activities, such as those from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation during elections of 2020., the end of the preferential vote and the end of the postal vote (except in the event of the voter being moved or immobilized).

Christiansen’s proposals have raised concerns among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about undermining voter confidence, including Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson – the top elections official in the State – which issued a joint public statement expressing frustration at “disinformation” and Democratic Senator Derek Kitchen of Salt Lake City, who called Christiansen’s push for an audit “senseless and damaging.”

“By nurturing these types of far-right goals and conspiracy theories within a formal legislative framework, the Legislature is not only acting in bad faith, but is also wasting taxpayer dollars,” Kitchen said in a statement. Press. “Lawmakers should be thinking about thoughtful solutions, not chasing Fox News rabbit holes.”

Christiansen, director of presiding episcopal projects of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made the opening presentation at the Interim Judicial Committee meeting following Wednesday’s rally. He said in his presentation that he is not claiming that voter fraud exists in Utah, but that an independent audit is needed to determine if there is fraud.

There were only standing places in the meeting. Those making public comments had to be brought in and out of the room to provide space for everyone, and audience members had to be reminded several times to remain silent during the proceedings.

Representative Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, the chair of the committee, had borrowed “Guido the Gavel” for the occasion, “Just in case law enforcement needs backup.” The joke only slightly eased the palpable tension in the room from concerned residents, some of whom, like Daphne Thomas, had made the five-hour commute from Washington County in southern Utah to take place to the meeting.

“I think there are enough uncertainties right now that it seems fair,” Thomas said of holding an independent audit. “Why not do an audit? “

Two of the meeting attendees were immigrants, Oswaldo and Ana deMoura, who came from Bountiful to express concern that without independent audits, Utah’s elections are threatened by the corruption they say is rampant in their country of origin, Brazil.

“It’s way above Republicans and Democrats,” Oswaldo said of the issue.

Christiansen opened his remarks with a quote from John Jay stating that “Providence has given our people the choice of their leaders.” He then argued that despite Donald Trump winning the vote in Utah, elections in Utah cannot be proven secure without an independent audit. “If we do an audit and we’re clean, I’ve done my job.”

As evidence for his proposals, Christiansen cited a Rasmussen Reports poll showing 55% of voters support election audits, and a Big Data Poll that showed 53% of Utahns believe postal voting increases fraud.

Rep. V. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, questioned the numbers, citing the fact that Big Data Poll has been banned by some survey analysis sites. One of these sites is FiveThirtyEight, owned by ABC News. Rasmussen Reports is biased by the center-right according to Media Bias Fact Check.

Snow also said Christiansen was potentially unfair to Utah County employees, whom Snow called “blameless.” The idea that any government official should be above all control has sparked outrage from several residents, which they expressed in public comments.

As Lisonbee noted, the Interim Judiciary Committee does not have the power to request an audit, but only to discuss legislative solutions. The legislative solutions proposed by Christiansen are:

  • allow postal ballots only for people on the move or immobilized
  • counting ballots with constituency level volunteers
  • require photo identification when a postal ballot is allowed or at the polling place
  • prevent private funds from paying for registration or other electoral activities
  • perform independent audits on an ongoing basis.

Following Christiansen’s presentation, Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, introduced Henderson and Weber County Clerk / Auditor Ricky Hatch. The presentation detailed the risks inherent in the electoral system, as well as the safeguards already in place to mitigate those risks.

“Utah’s elections are safe, accurate and trustworthy. At the same time, we fully recognize that voter confidence across the country is suffering, and even with our exemplary system, Utah is no exception, ”Hatch said.

Hawkins and Henderson acknowledged that improvements could be made and described several legislative solutions that could be adopted to protect Utah elections, including asking the Lieutenant Governor to create an audit policy and to audit at random. voter registration records each month.

Hatch encouraged residents of Utah to visit their county clerk to see the electoral processes for themselves. “We are in the midst of municipal elections; now is the perfect time to visit your county clerk’s office, ”he said. “Come see how we manage risk. Come and watch the system with a real election expert and don’t be fooled by the words of others. We believe that you will be reassured by the current guarantees and processes.

Henderson said she recently visited 21 of Utah County’s 29 clerks and was confident the rule of law was upheld. She also expressed support for current policies which she says increase access to ballots, such as postal voting. She expressed concern that reversing such policies would result in voter suppression.

“I fear that the rhetoric that has been circulating will serve to undermine, deliberately undermine the confidence of the voters and that concerns me a lot, because it becomes a threat to our democracy, it becomes a threat to our constitutional republic, and it becomes a threat. for our freedom, ”said Henderson.

The aim of the meetings of the Interim Judicial Commission is to present possible legislation before the next legislative session in January. Proposals made by senators and representatives at the meeting could find their way into legislation in the 2022 session.

An audio recording of the Interim Judicial Committee meeting is in the archives.

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