A former Utah state lawmaker attempted to obtain the personal information and voting history of every single registered voter in the state before he resigned last week.
And he tried to leverage his position as an elected official to obtain the data.
Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan has been at the forefront of pushing for a “forensic audit” of Utah’s 2020 election results similar to the partisan-fueled audit in Arizona’s Maricopa County. He asked for a legislative audit of the results in Salt Lake County in December, but that request has yet to be approved.
In June, Christiansen traveled to Arizona to witness the audit firsthand. Both Christiansen and Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, were present at the August cyber symposium in South Dakota put on by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell. He and Lyman spoke about election fraud at a conspiracy-fueled conference in Salt Lake City last week.
Christiansen, who resigned abruptly from both the Utah Legislature and his job with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Thursday, wasn’t just pushing those baseless claims about voter fraud. He was determined to do something about it.
All Utah voters
According to documents obtained by The Tribune through an open records request, Christiansen asked the Lieutenant Governor’s office for a copy of the entire Utah voter registration database for the 2020 election on Sept. 14. The request included personal information for each voter such as name, address, the date they registered to vote, birth year, political party, and email.
Christiansen also asked for the information for Utah voters who requested those records not be released publicly.
In his request, Christiansen cited a provision in Utah law giving access to those private records to a government official or employee acting in their official capacity.
“Utah Code 20A-2-104 provides that voter registration records that have been classified as ‘private’ or ‘withheld’ may NOT be withheld from government officials,” Christiansen wrote (emphasis his).
On Oct. 1, the Lt. Governor’s office denied Christiansen’s request. Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson’s office said Christiansen was not entitled to those records, especially since some of the “private” records Christiansen requested could include a voter’s driver license number, date of birth, and Social Security number.
“While you are an elected member of the State Legislature, there is nothing in your request letter that demonstrates that you are acting in the capacity of a government official or on behalf of a government entity,” the response letter said.
After that denial, Christiansen doubled down, insisting his status as a lawmaker entitled him to those records.
“My request was delivered to you on my official letterhead of the Utah House of Representatives and referenced my position in that body,” Christiansen replied. “Bottom line, my request is legitimate and legally justified.”
In a statement to The Tribune, Henderson defended her office’s decision to deny access to the database to Christiansen.
“Voters deserve to have confidence that their personal information will not be used in inappropriate or illegal ways. Recent efforts of unauthorized people to obtain voter information for nebulous purposes should be concerning to everyone. My office will always strive to uphold the law and safeguard voter information. We never want anything to come between a voter and the ballot box,” Henderson said.
Christiansen’s dogged pursuit of voter fraud claims raised some concerns among his colleagues.
“He’s free to do what he wants as an elected official, but we have to be very careful as lawmakers that we don’t create an environment where people believe that there are problems where there’s not,” House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said in an interview with The Tribune conducted prior to his resignation.
But the question remains. Why did he so desperately want those records, and what did he plan to do with them?
Christiansen did not respond to a request for comment.
In the Oct. 16 episode of his “Restoring Liberty” podcast, Christiansen explained “the purpose of wanting that data was to conduct a potential phantom voter analysis.”
Christiansen describes the analysis: going door-to-door, or canvassing, to match voters with their voting history. Specifically, Christiansen wanted the records for the 2020 Utah presidential primary, last June’s Utah primary election, and the November general election. He wanted records showing if a voter participated in those elections and what method they used to vote.
The organizers of the election audit in Arizona planned a similar effort in Maricopa County but abandoned the idea after the Department of Justice warned it could violate federal laws against voter intimidation. In a May 5 letter to Arizona officials, the DOJ warned door-to-door voter verification could be directed at minority voters, a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
“Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future,” Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan wrote.
There is an effort already underway to conduct an in-person canvass of the 2020 vote in Utah. A group calling itself the “Utah Voter Verification Project” is soliciting volunteers online and conducting training sessions around the state. The online petition for the organization links to AuditUtah.org, which shares links about purported election fraud in Utah. It’s not clear whether Christiansen is connected to the website, but Christiansen has interacted with the group on its Telegram channel.
When someone signs up to volunteer for AuditUtah, the thank you email contains a link to an organization called the U.S. Election Integrity Plan (USEIP), a Colorado election fraud conspiracy group with reported ties to QAnon. One of the group’s leaders is a member of the Three Percenter militia organization. Its website says members “do not consent to be governed by those elected by fraud.”
USEIP volunteers have been going door to door across that state trying to match voters with votes, prompting Colorado officials to remind residents they are not required to divulge any information to canvassers.
While USEIP has been training organizers in other states to conduct similar door-to-door efforts, it appears they are directly involved with the Utah Voter Verification Project’s efforts to organize canvassing in Utah. Several posts on Telegram, a messaging platform, direct potential volunteers to the USEIP website where they will be vetted before they join.
Posts on Telegram point out complete voter rolls — like Christiansen was seeking — are needed to find “phantom voters.” The posts also urge users to pressure Utah elected officials to turn the voter rolls over to the Utah Legislature.
Another post explained the best way to find “phantom voters” was to use “election summaries, detailed demographics, and Voter Registration Rolls” and to put that information into spreadsheets by county. Christiansen’s request to the Lt. Governor’s office asked for the data separated into “29 separate files, one for each county.”
The public portion of the Utah voter database is available to anyone who asks for it, for a fee of $1,050. That includes the name, address, party affiliation, and voter participation history of every registered voter in the state. But, it’s only available as a one-time purchase. Christiansen’s request was for three specific dates, and includes several data points that aren’t available to the public, such as birthdate, phone number, and email as well as private records.