Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lawmakers approve audit of Utah's election system

A photo of voters wearing face masks at voting stations.
Renee Bright
Republican Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who oversees the state’s elections, has repeatedly pushed back on the notion that Utah’s elections could have widespread fraud.

A Utah legislative committee is directing legislative auditors to look into the integrity of the state’s election systems.

The committee approved the audit along party lines Tuesday evening. The letter requesting the audit, which was shared with KUER, asks staff to examine “the integrity and accuracy of voter rolls … The legitimacy and security of submitted ballots … [and] the integrity of the systems and processes of election offices.” It does not mention the 2020 election.

House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, requested the inquiry even though former President Donald Trump won in Utah last year. But Schultz said this isn’t about a particular party.

“I don't understand what we're afraid of,” he said. “I'm hopeful that the audit that comes back clean and restores confidence or gives the citizens of the state confidence in our election process.”

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.

Republican Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who oversees the state’s elections, said she welcomes the audit and feels confident it won’t find widespread fraud. Still, she worries that it contributes to a false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen.

“I think that Rep. Schultz is sincere in his desire to increase voter confidence,” Henderson said. “I do worry about the overall narrative and how this may contribute to it ... It's really destructive to people's public trust and we need to be very cautious about that.”

She said her office and county clerks regularly conduct election audits. She also has visited many clerk offices around the state this year to examine their processes and said they were all safe and secure.

However, Henderson said she did find some areas for improvement and has been working with another Republican on a bill to require regular audits of voter rolls and unannounced checks of county election audits, among other things.

House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said lawmakers shouldn’t use additional state resources to pursue an issue the lieutenant governor has already looked into.

“I think it's unwise for this committee to be acting in a way that could be construed as buying into the framework that some have called ‘the Big Lie,’” he said, “that the election in 2020 was stolen or that there were significant irregularities to the degree that we need to have this audit.”

The committee designated this as their top priority audit, but gave the auditor’s office discretion on when to complete it.

Election integrity activists who flooded a committee hearing in October, as well as a lawmaker and a former lawmaker, have been pushing for an Arizona-style, independent forensic audit.

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.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.