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Politics & Government

Two Utah lawmakers want state to conduct an Arizona-style audit of the 2020 election

People at a rally. One is holding a sign that reads 'Independent audits, no Mail-in ballots, no voting machines.'
Sonja Hutson
/
KUER
Supporters of a forensic election audit held a rally outside the Utah Capitol Wednesday.

Two Republican Utah lawmakers are pushing for the state to conduct an audit of the 2020 election in Salt Lake and Utah counties.

According to the Utah Highway Patrol, roughly 200 people showed up to a committee hearing Wednesday to discuss election integrity. Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, said he also wants the state to regularly conduct independent forensic election audits, make vote-by-mail very rare and eliminate the use of voting machines.

“If the audit is clean, I've done my job. If the audit is dirty, I've done my job,” he said. “My job is to protect the voice of the people and the rights of the people, your right to an independent, free and fair election.”

Christiansen said it would be expensive, but worth it. The Maricopa County audit in Arizona cost Trump-supporting groups nearly $6 million, according to Forbes. The county then estimated it would spend about $3 million replacing voting machines that they said were “tainted” during the review, the Arizona Republic reported. Christiansen argues Utah’s audit would cost less. The Utah Legislature has not estimated the cost, according to a spokesperson for the state Senate.

There’s no proof of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election. According to a poll by Y2 Analytics in May 2021, 82% of Utah voters felt very or somewhat confident that their vote was counted accurately in the latest election.

“My purpose is to listen to the people and to make sure that if the people are saying we don't trust the system, that we find ways to help you trust the system,” Christiansen said.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson oversees Utah’s elections. She said there are already multiple safeguards in place to ensure secure voting, including voting machines that aren’t connected to the internet and signature verification.

“I fear the talk that has been circulating is serving to undermine, deliberately undermine voter confidence,” Henderson said. “It concerns me greatly because it becomes a threat to our democracy.”

Still, Henderson said there is still room for improvement. She’s working with Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, on a bill that requires regular audits of voter rolls and unannounced checks of county election audits, among other things.

Henderson also defended the county clerks who run elections.

“These are public servants who have spent many years, many years, doing hard things,” she said. “And without exception, they have all talked to me about how difficult last year was for them. … These are really good people, and I've come away confident that the state law and federal law and our processes are being faithfully followed.”

But Christiansen and some of his supporters pushed back on the notion that they were attacking the county clerks.

Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, suggested both county clerks and the state do more educational outreach about the election safeguards that already exist.

“Getting to the bottom of why that concern is happening and why these issues are being raised is almost in my mind as important as the audit,” Snow said. “A lot of the issues have been raised with a significant amount of bad information or disinformation. … If the belief is erroneous, aren't we better off correcting that with educating the population?”

The Judiciary Interim Committee didn’t take action on any of the proposals during its Wednesday meeting.

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