Utah Lt. Gov. Henderson not worried by GOP legislative leaders ‘election integrity’ audit

“I’m confident in the integrity of our elections,” said Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson says she's confident that Utah's elections are secure, but worries an "election integrity" audit authorized by Utah lawmakers will "needlessly sow the seeds of doubt."

Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson is not worried by the surprise move from Republican leaders in the Legislature to authorize an “election integrity” audit.

“I’m confident in the integrity of our elections,” Henderson said bluntly during a telephone conversation.

Henderson, Utah’s top election official, has been looking to improve and streamline the state’s election process.

“I don’t need to wait for an audit to make improvements. I’ve been meeting with county clerks and reviewing our procedures. There are some things we can do to improve the process, but we have strong safeguards in place to make sure the integrity of our elections is protected,” Henderson says.

On Tuesday evening, House Majority Leader Mike Schultz asked the Legislative Audit Subcommittee, which is made up of the leadership teams of the House and Senate, to approve an examination of the state’s voter rolls, the security of ballots and the “integrity of the systems and processes of election offices.”

Schultz said he asked for the audit to increase trust in the state’s elections but stressed it had nothing to do with former President Donald Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election because of massive voter fraud.

“Donald Trump won Utah. This is not about Donald Trump,” Schultz said.

Schultz’s words ring a bit hollow after he added his name to a letter from Arizona state Senator Wendy Rogers, one of the most vocal in pushing stolen election conspiracy claims. Roger’s letter demands an audit of the 2020 election in all 50 states and decertifying the election results “where appropriate” to return Trump to the presidency. There is no mechanism in the Constitution to accomplish what Rogers wants.

The “Stop the Steal” conspiracy is alive and well in Utah, with a secretive group going door-to-door across the state seeking to root out election fraud. Henderson has repeatedly said Utah’s elections are secure, and there have been no instances of alleged fraud arising from the 2020 vote.

“Before people start throwing accusations around, they need to become informed. Instead, they’re needlessly sowing the seeds of doubt,” Henderson says.

The Legislature conducted a detailed examination of Utah’s election security just two years ago. That 2019 effort examined several of Utah’s election safeguards, specifically with same-day voter registration. The report concluded the state’s controls prevented individuals from voting twice and were sufficient to prevent election fraud.

While Henderson is not opposed to an audit, she is worried that Trump’s false claims will be used to justify making it more difficult to vote. She points to an October legislative committee hearing on election integrity that featured false claims of election fraud and calls to end the state’s universal mail-in balloting. Earlier this week, a group called “Secure Vote Utah” unveiled a ballot initiative to return the state to same-day paper balloting and make it harder to register to vote.

“There are people in Utah who have made it clear they want to get rid of mail-in voting and restrict access to the ballot for people who do not look or think like them,” Henderson says.

Henderson has already begun to implement some changes, which includes auditing the voter database to make sure counties keep their lists updated and accounting for the chain of custody for ballots and how they conduct audits before and after elections.

The lieutenant governor has begun to implement some changes, which includes auditing the voter database to make sure counties keep their lists updated and account for the chain of custody of ballots and how they conduct audits before and after elections.