Utah becomes the center of the “Stop the Steal” election fraud conspiracy theory this weekend.
Two events in South Jordan and St. George will highlight a quartet of speakers who have become celebrities in far-right circles. They include a Colorado election official facing ten felony charges for an election data breach and a former university professor who has called for the execution of “traitors” responsible for election manipulation.
The events are the brainchildren of Jenn Orton and Sophie Anderson. Since last year, they have been overwhelming county clerks and state election officials with an avalanche of public records requests in pursuit of information about potential election fraud in Utah. After trying for nearly a year, they have yet to offer any concrete evidence supporting their hypothesis. Anderson and Orton spoke at the QAnon-fueled conference in Salt Lake City last year.
Anderson and Orton did not answer questions sent to them by The Salt Lake Tribune.
That lack of evidence isn’t a concern for this weekend’s events in South Jordan and St. George, sponsored by the far-right Utah Patriots militia group and Citizens for Constitutional Government. They were publicized on Utah Telegram channels that are normally flooded with rampant conspiracies and anti-government sentiment mixed with anti-Ukraine, pro-Russian talking points.
The headline speaker is Tina Peters, the Colorado county clerk facing felony charges after information from breached data machines in her office was leaked online, fueling speculation that the data proved election subterfuge. She was scheduled to speak in person but was ordered by a judge not to leave the state and turn over her passport as part of her pre-trial release. Based on photos posted to Telegram, Peters conducted a taped interview with Rep. Phil Lyman earlier this month that will be shown this weekend.
Despite the felony indictment, Peters recently launched a campaign to be Colorado’s top election official. Peters is supported by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, who has pushed baseless election malfeasance allegations since shortly after then-President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.
Florida software database engineer Jeff O’Donnell, known on Telegram as “The Lone Raccoon,” makes a return visit to Utah. In February, he peddled his election fraud theories during a Utah County Commission meeting.
O’Donnell came to prominence following the Cyber Ninja’s unofficial “audit” in Arizona, which concluded Joe Biden won the 2020 election in Maricopa County by a larger margin than what was reported on election day. O’Donnell believes so-called “phantom voters” were responsible for thousands, if not millions, of fraudulent votes in 2020. Former Utah state Rep. Steve Christiansen was looking for those non-existent voters when he attempted to illegally leverage his elected office to obtain Utah’s complete voter registration database, including voter records that were marked as private or protected from public release.
O’Donnell has drawn the ire of Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen for alleging during the Utah County presentation that some vote totals mysteriously were reduced on election night. In an email shared with The Tribune, Swensen says O’Donnell’s claim is patently false.
“The reason some voters believe there was fraud in the 2020 election is because you keep promoting your unsubstantiated misinformation while claiming you are a national election data expert,” Swensen wrote to O’Donnell.
O’Donnell’s claim is based on data he says is from Salt Lake County sent to Edison Research. In her email, Swensen tells O’Donnell Salt Lake County never reported any data to Edison, and she contacted them about his theory. She says Edison refuted O’Donnell’s assertion.
“I believe you know your information isn’t legitimate. You have not attempted to confirm your information or get answers to your questions. Neither I nor any of my staff have ever heard from you. What you are doing is sadly a disservice to our voters and our democracy,” Swensen said.
O’Donnell did not respond to an email seeking comment.
David “The Professor” Clements is a scheduled speaker at the St. George event. Clements, a business professor fired by New Mexico State University for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, is behind a vigilante election audit effort in that state. The New Mexico Audit Force is similar to the Utah Voter Verification Project, which had volunteers going door to door in Utah asking residents about their votes. Clements has repeatedly called for the execution of “traitors” responsible for election fraud. In a video posted to social media, Clements said, “I want arrests, I want prosecutions, I want firing squads,” when discussing efforts to root out voter fraud.
Also traveling to Utah this weekend is former Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Michael Gabelman. Gabelman was hired last year by Wisconsin lawmakers to review the 2020 election. Gabelman will reportedly discuss the legally impossible idea of decertifying the 2020 election.
According to posts on right-wing social media, a handful of elected officials and candidates will be on hand for this weekend’s events. The posts say Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee, who set up February’s hearing that highlighted O’Donnell’s claims, is expected to attend. Lee did not respond to a request for comment.
Republican Salt Lake County Clerk candidate Goud Maragani confirmed to The Tribune he will speak at the Friday event.
“I have a 3-5 speaking slot at that event. I will speak there then will head downtown for another event at a private home,” Maragani said.