A Utah group is going door to door looking for election fraud. But they don’t want you to know about it

Who is behind the Utah Voter Verification Project? A Tribune investigation uncovers some troubling tactics and connections.

(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. A group known as the Utah Voter Verification Project is conducting a door-to-door canvass of voters in Utah looking for election fraud.

Last week, residents in Hurricane alerted Washington County officials that strangers were coming to their doors asking questions about the 2020 election.

The questioners did not wear name tags and refused to identify themselves or what organization they were with, according to the complaints. Residents said they also appeared to have the personal voter information of the people they were questioning.

These questioners were part of a private statewide effort to root out voter fraud, an investigation by The Salt Lake Tribune has found.

The group knocking on doors calls itself the Utah Voter Verification Project (UVVP), and it’s the latest front in the “Stop the Steal” election fraud conspiracy movement.

The group has no mainstream online presence. Most volunteers are recruited through alternative messaging apps like Telegram, but even then there’s only a graphic linking to a website where potential volunteers can sign up for more information.

There is no evidence of any voting irregularities in Utah during the 2020 election. Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson have pushed back aggressively calling any such claims “absolute falsehoods.”

An investigation by The Tribune into UVVP, involving a review of confidential training materials, contracts, and a recording of a training session for volunteers, reveals the group has direct connections to the election conspiracy organization U.S. Election Integrity Project (USEIP), linked to the QAnon conspiracy and fronted by supporters of the Three Percenters Militia. The Tribune also found an indirect connection to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.

A training manual for the group says it is seeking to “ensure free & fair Utah elections” and to “restore confidence in our election system by either refuting or confirming concerns of fraud.” Whatever information they uncover, the manual says, “will be presented as evidence, both in and out of legal settings.”

UVVP volunteers are told to keep their work confidential to avoid disrupting their investigation.

“We want to make sure that we keep our information very quiet,” one of the trainers said. “As we’ve seen happen over and over again, when you release little bits and pieces, they destroy documents, they destroy evidence. We don’t want to release anything until we’re ready.”

According to posts on Telegram, one of the group’s leaders is Elaine Moore of Payson. Moore has almost no digital footprint on mainstream social media. According to publicly available databases, Moore first registered as a voter in Utah in 2012 and cast a ballot in the general election. She did not vote again until she registered as a Republican in March of 2018.

Moore is active in several Utah Telegram groups but keeps her account private. She first started using the secure messaging app in March of this year as she was heading up email and letter-writing campaigns to stop COVID-19 restrictions. She shifted toward pushing for an audit of election results sometime in May, which is around the same time as the controversial Arizona election audit started getting more attention nationwide.

In that unofficial audit, Republican leaders in the Arizona Legislature paid an outside firm known as the “Cyber Ninjas” to review ballots in heavily Democratic Maricopa County. The investigation, which concluded Democrat Joe Biden won by more votes than was reported on Election Day, was beset with controversy, including volunteers trying to find bamboo fibers in ballots to prove they had come from China.

Moore started posting on Telegram about the website auditutah.org on July 23, just three days after the domain was first registered. On July 24, the website audit50.org was registered. It is nearly identical to the AuditUtah site with a nationwide focus. Moore has posted on Telegram about updating the national site.

The first solicitation from Moore about the Utah Voter Verification Project appeared on Telegram on Sept 8.

Moore did not respond to multiple attempts to reach her for comment.

You’re on camera

When UVVP volunteers knock on a door, they’re instructed to record audio or video without the consent of the person being recorded. This is legal as Utah is a single consent state, which means only one person needs to know they’re being recorded.

“We can record anyone without telling them. We don’t need permission,” one trainer said.

If they’re asked to stop recording, volunteers are instructed to comply or to leave the property.

A training manual obtained by the Tribune stresses secrecy.

“You do not have to identify yourself at all, but may not misidentify yourself,” it reads.

“Do not wear any logos/indications of a political party, politicians, or candidates — i.e. please look and act as ‘Team America’,” another section stresses.

Volunteers are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The document specifies any “knowledge and proprietary information” generated through the canvassing activities cannot be disclosed to third parties. They’re warned that breaking the NDA could result in legal action.

What are they looking for?

The entire effort is focused on matching voters to votes cast in the 2020 election, to determine if any were fraudulent.

The group has obtained publicly available voter registration data, which includes name, address, and voting participation history. Working off scripted questions, residents are asked if they voted in 2020 and whether they cast a ballot through the mail or in person.

They’re also asked if they received any extra ballots at their address, and what happened to them.

In the recording, leaders told volunteers that they had already identified several instances of illegal votes in Utah.

“They were completely illegal ballots. Completely illegal. I’ve never found them so blatantly illegal before. They were extra ballots, and they’re not even real people,” one of the orientation leaders said, suggesting that ballots were sent to an address for people who had never lived there.

“[The residents] knew the names of the people they leased the house from, and it was not any of those people,” the trainer continued.

Organizers were hoping former representative Steve Christiansen would take whatever information they gathered through the door-to-door canvass to the Legislature, according to the call. But Christiansen resigned from the Legislature on Oct. 28.

“Sadly, we were going to do that through the Government Operations Committee, but with Christiansen’s resignation, that’s probably not going to happen anymore,” a UVVP representative said on the orientation recording.

On Sept. 14, Christiansen attempted to obtain the entire state voting database, including records that voters had asked to keep private. He was rebuffed by the Lt. Governor’s office.

Christiansen was a vocal supporter of efforts to conduct a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 election in Utah. He attended the election-denying “cyber symposium” sponsored by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell that promised to reveal information that the election had been stolen from Donald Trump. Christiansen also was a visitor to the GOP-led audit of election results in Arizona. He aired his election fraud theories publicly at a legislative committee hearing on “election integrity,” and was a speaker at a far-right conference in Salt Lake City in October.

Christiansen also discussed a plan for door-to-door canvassing on the Oct. 16 episode of his podcast.

UVVP is seeking the very same information Christiansen tried to obtain. In a Telegram post on Sept. 5, Moore said it was important for the Utah Legislature to obtain all the voter data, which would make it easier to identify who had voted.

“To find red flag voters it takes: Election Summaries, detailed demographics, and Voter Registration Rolls. One without the other leaves an incomplete picture,” Moore wrote.

Christiansen did not respond to a request for comment.

The affidavit game

The real point of the game is to get Utahns to provide an affidavit of a voting irregularity.

UVVP organizers repeatedly mentioned the need to get people who had stories of illegal votes to provide an affidavit, which they described as a written statement signed by two people, usually the voter and a volunteer. If a voter does not agree to an affidavit, volunteers would be able to use the surreptitious recordings of residents to generate one.

Mike Caulfield, a research scientist at the University of Washington who studies online misinformation, says affidavits are a critical part of the “Stop the Steal” effort to demonstrate election fraud.

“Affidavits have become a way to launder evidence — that is to take low-quality evidence of unproven provenance and give it the feeling of something official and substantial that deserves public attention,” Caulfield said.

If a resident reported receiving extra ballots, the UVVP canvass training manual instructs volunteers to ask if the resident would be willing to fill out a statement so they can “correct the error in the state’s records.”

“Once we have gotten to the point where we think we have enough information, we can bring it to the attention of the officials in the county. We need the public to witness that and what we have learned,” a trainer said during the orientation. They also mentioned the possibility of taking those affidavits to court.

Caulfield says that’s a tactic right out of the “Stop the Steal” playbook.

“You get a person to say they observed something — even if they are not qualified to understand what they saw — and have it put in a document for a lawyer and attach it to a case,” Caulfield says. “The case doesn’t have to have a chance of succeeding because the point is to generate news coverage.”

Once there’s a case, then activists can put pressure on media outlets to cover the affidavit, even though it’s nothing more than a piece of paper signed by two people.

“The affidavit appears to be weighty because it carries possible consequences for lying, but in reality it doesn’t, as the affiants are using them to put out suppositions that are not claims of fact,” Caulfield says.

This scenario played out in Michigan following the 2020 election. Lawyers who supported Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election submitted more than 900 pages of affidavits alleging various types of election fraud, but most of the claims were quickly debunked when submitted to the smallest amount of scrutiny.

Troubling connections

The Utah canvass is not the only canvassing effort happening right now. The first such group to embrace the strategy is the Colorado-based USEIP. That group is currently training organizers in other states, including Utah, on how to implement a door-to-door strategy.

It’s not known whether groups have started in-person canvassing in other states yet, but there are groups on Telegram working to organize door knocking in several states, including Florida, Mississippi and Nebraska.

Moore has posted on telegram that USEIP is handling the background checks for UVVP volunteers. The background checks were implemented by USEIP after they discovered some of their early volunteers were sex offenders.

USEIP did not respond to a request for comment.

One of USEIP’s leaders, Cory Anderson, has been identified as a member of the anti-government Three Percenter’s Militia. His group provided security at campaign events for Colorado Rep. Loren Boebert.

Another leader of USEIP, Shawn Smith, a retired Air Force colonel, is a follower of the QAnon conspiracy theory and was recently part of a video posted online where he said violence is a legitimate response to “a tyrannical regime that stays in power.” USEIP volunteers have been known to wear firearms while knocking on doors.

Colorado election officials have reminded residents they are not obligated to answer questions from the volunteer canvassers.

The Tribune’s investigation uncovered a direct link between Smith and Moore. The metadata on some of the UVVP training materials lists Smith as the author of the document. Additionally, UVVP did not scrub some of the training materials, which still mention correcting Colorado election data.

USEIP’s efforts are now going nationwide with the help of My Pillow’s Lindell.

Lindell recently launched a nationwide organization focusing on election integrity called Cause of America. Lindell hired Smith and other USEIP members to head the new effort.

Neither Lindell nor Cause of America responded to a request for an interview.

Moore has an indirect connection to Lindell through his FrankSpeech.com site. She produced several videos about Utah’s canvassing efforts that aired on Lindell’s 96-hour “Thanks-a-Thon” over Thanksgiving.

Can they do this?

Henderson, who oversees elections for Utah as the lieutenant governor, says they’ve already fielded several complaints about the canvassing efforts. But what the group is doing isn’t illegal.

“It’s creepy. I hope people don’t answer these questions. But unless they’re doing something like targeting protected groups of people, there’s not much I can do,” Henderson says.

Organizers of the Arizona election audit also planned to go door-to-door to verify votes but backed off after the U.S. Department of Justice warned the plan might violate federal laws against voter intimidation.

Henderson says they have alerted the FBI task force that handles election security issues simply because the activity is so unusual.

The FBI would not comment.