Utah Lt. Gov. calls election integrity claims ‘destructive’

SALT LAKE CITY — The leader who oversees Utah elections said Wednesday that new efforts questioning the integrity of the state’s voting system are “destructive” and “very concerning.”

The comments from Republican Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson come after a panel of majority-GOP lawmakers approved an audit into the election system. There are also separate efforts to get a forensic audit on the ballot and her office has gotten a report about people knocking on doors asking residents about their votes. Former President Donald Trump handily won the state in 2020.

“From all of the things that I have seen, the endgame here is to fundamentally destroy the voting system we have here in the state of Utah,” she told The Associated Press. “Where there are challenges and problems, let’s work together to solve them and overcome them. But let’s not deliberately spread lies, falsehoods, misinformation and do it in a way that ensures that certain people don’t have access to the ballot. My question to those elected officials is, why are you afraid to let people vote?”

The questions in conservative Utah echo those in states like Arizona, where an outside firm was hired to conduct a review after Trump falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen. That review, though described by experts described as riddled with errors, bias and flawed methodology, confirmed Democrat Joe Biden’s win in the state. In October, some 200 people rallied at the Capitol building and packed a legislative meeting room calling for a similar review in Utah.

The audit approved Tuesday in Utah, by contrast, will be carried out by nonpartisan legislative auditors.

The lawmaker who proposed it, House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, said his request is separate from the ballot-initiative effort. He said he hopes it will reaffirm voter confidence in election systems. “I have full faith in our clerks and lieutenant governor, but I think just doing a normal routine audit is a good thing,” he said.

GOP state lawmaker Phil Lyman, who is sponsoring another bill that would implement regular audits, said his concerns go beyond the 2020 election and include funding for electronic systems where voter-registration data in Utah and elsewhere is housed. “I can’t imagine someone not wanting to understand what is going on with the election system,” he said.

While Henderson said she trusts the legislative auditors and expects them to perform the same kind of checks her team is already making to look for internal improvements, she also stressed there is no evidence of any wrongdoing.

“I am very concerned about any lawmaker who signs on to these notions, that where there is no evidence, and these are baseless allegations and they’re deliberately making them in order to undermine public trust and faith in the foundation of our democratic republic,” she said. “They’re doing it not to solve problems but to score political points. To me, that’s reprehensible and that is what I’m concerned about.”

The door-knocking complaints, first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, came from southern Utah about people knocking on doors asking detailed questions about how residents voted, who they cast ballots for and who lived in the home. The questioners would not identify themselves or their organization, leaving the homeowners feeling uncomfortable, Henderson said.

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