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Politics & Government

Utah Republican lawmaker calls for annual independent election audits

mail in ballot
Renee Bright
/
KUER
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.

Utah Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, plans to sponsor a bill that would require independent election audits every year.

Right now, county clerks and the lieutenant governor’s office routinely audit election results throughout the state.

This new proposal would require that counties hire a Certified Public Accountant firm to audit their election systems every year, including reviews of voter registration rolls and the ballots cast.

“When you're auditing your own things, it's just not the same,” Lyman said. “Similar to any public company — you wouldn't buy stock in a public company if they said, ‘Oh no, we're not having an independent audit. We're just going to do it ourselves and trust us.’”

Lyman called the election system corrupt but doesn’t know if that has changed the outcome of any elections.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who oversees the state’s elections, said she hasn’t seen the bill yet. It’s still being drafted and isn’t publicly available.

But she said, in general, public officials are better equipped to audit elections.

“Public officials are elected — they're accountable to the people,” she said. “To suggest that you have to have some people involved who aren't elected and who aren't accountable to the people in order for it to somehow be trustworthy, it's problematic to me.”

Henderson said she wants to bolster confidence in the state’s elections and if Lyman’s bill turns out to be the best way to do that, she’s open to it.

“But I don't think that we should be doing things or spending money or other costs on things simply because it's expedient politically,” she said. “The overriding concern I have, of course, is this constant drumbeat that somehow the public should be concerned about the security or the accuracy of our elections.”

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.

Henderson said her office hasn’t found any evidence of fraud and she hasn’t seen any from election integrity reformers either. Counties audit the results of their elections. And a state legislative audit from 2019 found there were “strong controls over the same day voting method.”

In early December 2021, a legislative committee commissioned an audit of “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.”

Henderson is working with Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, on a bill to further improve election security. It will propose regular audits of voter rolls and require that election audits be conducted by each county’s Board of Canvassers instead of the county clerk.

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