Utah legislators call for election integrity audit

State’s governor and lieutenant governor have said there is no evidence of election fraud in Utah.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Ballots are sorted at the Salt Lake County offices in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.

Utah lawmakers are pushing for an election integrity audit, saying a review would help put doubts about the state’s voting system “to bed.”

Their decision to direct Utah legislative auditors to look into election issues came at the very end of a Tuesday evening legislative committee hearing.

House Minority Leader Brian King objected to the review as unnecessary and potentially stoking suspicions in the state’s electoral system. Such an audit could also look like support for the false narrative that former President Donald Trump was the real victor of the 2020 presidential race, he said.

“I think it’s unwise for this committee to be acting in a way that could be construed as buying into the framework that ... the election in 2020 was stolen or there were significant irregularities to the degree that we need to have this audit,” the Salt Lake City Democrat said.

However, House Majority Leader Mike Schultz responded he didn’t understand why some lawmakers were reluctant to examine the state’s election process.

Schultz said he was confident in the election officers across the state but thought a review could help bolster public trust in Utah’s voting system. In his view, the audit would not be tainted with partisanship since Trump carried Utah in 2020 and the state’s voters predominantly elect Republicans. He vehemently denies this audit was prompted by calls from Trump supporters who believe his claims of election fraud.

“Donald Trump won Utah. This is not about the 2020 election. I want to focus on our processes and systems and make sure there aren’t any problems,” Schultz said.

Schultz drew scorn when he signed on to a letter from controversial Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers calling for an audit of all 50 states. Reps. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, and Mike Petersen, R-North Logan, also signed the letter, as did former Rep. Steve Christiansen.

Rogers, who has boasted of her membership in the “Oath Keepers” militia, has fully embraced the “Big Lie” that voter fraud was responsible for Trump’s loss. Schultz says his request is not motivated by partisanship, but he thinks the resistance to the audit is.

“I don’t know why Democrats are so worried about making sure our system isn’t broken,” Schultz said. “I hope Utahns are paying attention to what they’re doing and why they’re fighting this so hard.”

Schultz’s audit request, a copy of which was shared with The Tribune, mentions nothing about reviewing the 2020 election results. Instead, it focuses on evaluating the accuracy of the state’s voter rolls, verifying the legitimacy and security of ballots, and the integrity of the election process.

Both Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who oversees the state’s election office, have defended the integrity of Utah’s voting system.

“We recognize some voters have legitimate questions about our elections and we invite all citizens to be involved in our local elections to see the process first-hand,” Cox and Henderson, both Republicans, said in an October joint statement. “But make no mistake: There is absolutely no evidence of election fraud in Utah. Utah has long been a model to the nation when it comes to voting and voter security.”