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No proof? No problem. The right wing is trying to dismantle Utah’s top-in-the-U. S. election system, Robert Gehrke writes

Unable to prove fraud, Rep. Steve Christiansen is leading a quixotic quest to get rid of mail-in voting and other popular election features.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Activists pushing for a forensic audit of the 2020 election in Utah, applaud the words of Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-South Jordan at a rally at the Capitol on Oct. 20, 2021, prior to the 1pm Judiciary Interim Committee's meeting on election integrity, to Òhear presentations on perspectives regarding election integrity" according to the agenda.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Rep. Steve Christiansen’s conspiracy peddling presentation to his fellow legislators Wednesday was that he did the entire thing as a space alien.

Of course, I can’t PROVE he’s an extraterrestrial from outer space. But a lot of questions have been raised and some people believe so. I can’t really prove how many people believe it. There’s this poll, but you can’t see it, and it is true that this particular pollster’s reputation is abysmal.

That is the standard of proof that Christiansen relies on when making his unfounded claims that Utah’s election was rife with fraud and needs a full forensic audit.

“I believe there was fraud in the 2020 election. I can’t prove it, which is why we need to have an audit,” he said Wednesday.

Christiansen’s tales are beyond fiction. They’re beyond fantasies. They are outright lies.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

And on Wednesday, lawmakers got the entire trifecta: lies, damn lies and Lyman — that’s Phil Lyman, Christiansen’s Trump-pardoned sidekick in this unconscionable attack on the cornerstone of our democracy.

These two are embarrassments — to the Legislature and to the State of Utah.

If there is one bright spot from the Legislature’s Judiciary Interim Committee hearing on election integrity, it’s that the elected officials on the committee appear to have the good sense to see through the charade.

Chief among them was Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, whose office is responsible for overseeing Utah elections and pushed back against the wild conspiracy theories and asserted that Utah’s election integrity is the gold standard for other states to follow — because it is.

“We believe in the peaceful transfer of power in the United States of America. We value that every citizen has a right to have their voice heard … and the process by which they do that is free and fair elections,” she said.

“I fear the talk that has been circulating is serving to undermine — to deliberately undermine — voter confidence and it concerns me greatly, because it becomes a threat to our democracy, a threat to our constitutional Republic and our freedom.”

She was certainly not alone in rejecting the fraud fairy tale.

Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove, said we do audits when there is evidence of malfeasance — and thus far he has seen none with any merit.

Sen. Todd Weiler, a Republican from Woods Cross, asked if the Maricopa County audit — done by a handpicked group with questionable credentials, but ultimately found a larger margin of victory for Joe Biden than had been reported — resolved concerns in Arizona. It’s a salient point because it seems likely that nothing is likely to convince these people who “do their own research” that they are wrong.

And Salt Lake City Democrat Rep. Brian King questioned the source of a poll that was the underpinning for Christiansen’s repeated claim that Utahns doubt the integrity of our elections. His source was a poll done by a firm that has been blacklisted by the polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight.com because it falsified, or is suspected to have falsified, data.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Activists pushing for a forensic audit of the 2020 election in Utah, rally at the Capitol on Oct. 20, 2021, prior to the 1pm Judiciary Interim Committee's meeting on election integrity, to “hear presentations on perspectives regarding election integrity" according to the agenda.

Christiansen made no mention of the results of a poll in May by the Utah firm Y2 Analytics showing that 84% of Utahns — including nearly three-fourths of Republicans — are confident in election outcomes and that 88% of Utahns were satisfied with the method of voting in 2020.

While the public likes Utah’s election system, there are always efforts to improve it, said Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch, and legislation is in the works to refine the process.

But Christiansen and the other conspiracists don’t want refinements, they want complete demolition — and that’s where Christiansen’s crusade becomes problematic.

They want to get rid of mail-in voting.

They want to get rid of machine voting and have everyone vote on paper ballots (by the way, mail-in ballots ARE paper ballots).

They want all the counting to be done by hand by volunteers in local precincts (what could go wrong?).

They want to ban ranked-choice voting being piloted in some municipal elections this year.

They want rigorous voter ID laws.

And they want to ban any private funds from paying for voter registration efforts, which is patently unconstitutional and would prohibit the Republican Party, for example, from registering voters.

That is the insidious endgame in this whole sham, and residents told legislators Wednesday they are preparing to launch a ballot initiative to implement all or most of those changes — ironic, since we’ll never know if the initiative passes or fails because of all the election fraud.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Deidre M. Henderson fields questions about Utah's election procedures during Wednesday's Judiciary Interim Committee's meeting on election integrity, to Òhear presentations on perspectives regarding election integrity" according to the agenda.

But this is the real, tangible peril buried inside this game Christiansen and Lyman are playing: We risk taking a system that has increased voter participation, that voters overwhelmingly like and trust, that has had no credible allegations of voter fraud (beyond parents casting ballots for their missionaries) and blowing it all up.

And we risk doing that without a shred of credible proof that makes sense, logically or logistically. Instead, they are charging down that road, gripped by a Trump-fueled fever dream. It’s up to the rest of us to contact our legislators and make sure they know that we will not let that happen.

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