Editor’s note • This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s voter guide for the 2022 midterm elections. You can find all the stories in both English and Spanish here.
Para leer este artículo en español, haz clic aquí.
In Utah, elections are only as good as the county clerk.
As the county’s top elections official, county clerks run each election and share those results with the state. The results ultimately determine who represents Utahns in Congress and who sits on local school boards.
Because of former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, and the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot that followed, some supporters of Trump now believe that elections — including those in Utah — have been compromised. Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, the state’s top election official, has said numerous times that there has been no fraud in Utah’s election.
This year, 28 of Utah’s 29 counties have open clerk positions, but only six of those clerks’ races are being contested. As a result, voters in Salt Lake, San Juan, Summit, Utah, Washington and Wayne counties will have more than one clerk candidate on the ballot or have a write-in candidate campaigning for office.
The Salt Lake Tribune reached out to clerk candidates in all of Utah’s 29 counties, and asked two questions: Did President Joe Biden win the 2020 election? And was that election free and fair?
In four of those races — Salt Lake, Summit, Utah and Washington counties — at least one candidate has floated election conspiracies about the 2020 presidential election.
In five counties — Duchesne, Juab, Morgan, Piute and Wayne — candidates did not respond to questions from The Salt Lake Tribune nor had information on their websites about their views on election integrity.
Here’s what county clerk candidates had to say about election integrity:
Ginger McMullin, Beaver County’s incumbent clerk/auditor, responded yes to both questions. She does not have a challenger in the race.
Box Elder County
Marla Young, the Box Elder County clerk who is running unopposed, said Biden won the 2020 election. When asked if the election was free and fair, she said, “From my standpoint, yes.”
Incumbent Cache County Clerk/Auditor Jess Bradfield said yes, Biden won the 2020 election, and that, “Yeah, it was a free and fair election.” Bradfield is the sole clerk/auditor candidate on the ballot.
Carbon County Clerk/Auditor Seth Marsing told The Tribune that Biden won the election. To the question of whether the election was free and fair, Marsing, who is running unopposed, said, “As far as I know, yes.”
Daggett is the only Utah county that does not have a clerk’s election in 2022, according to current clerk Brian Raymond.
He told The Tribune the next clerk election is in 2024, as the county voted previously to split the clerk/auditor’s office into two. The auditor’s office race will take place this year.
Davis County commissioners voted in January to split their clerk/auditor’s office into separate positions. The current clerk/auditor, Curtis Koch, opted to run for the auditor job, while Brian McKenzie, a chief deputy in the clerk/auditor’s office who currently oversees the county’s elections, is the only candidate running for the clerk job.
McKenzie responded yes to both questions.
Chelsie Jessen won the Republican primary for the Duchesne County clerk/auditor nomination earlier this year, defeating current Clerk/Auditor JoAnn Evans. She is unopposed on this ballot this November.
Jessen did not respond to multiple calls and messages from The Tribune. Jessen told UBMedia.com, which operates the Vernal Express newspaper, that she has worked in the clerk/auditor’s office and the most pressing issue for the clerk/auditor’s office was regarding credibility.
“If I am elected,” Jensson told UBMedia ahead of the primaries, “I will be transparent with citizens, eliminate the excessive budget spending within the clerk/auditor’s office, utilize the current staff appropriately, and start rebuilding trust with Duchesne County citizens.”
Incumbent Clerk/Auditor Brenda Tuttle responded “yes” to both questions. She’s the lone candidate for the county’s clerk/auditor.
Incumbent Garfield County Auditor/Clerk Camille Moore responded “yes” to both questions. Moore is the sole candidate for the county’s auditor/clerk.
Incumbent Grand County Clerk/Auditor Gabriel Woytek, the only candidate running for the job, responded “yes” to both questions.
Incumbent Clerk Jon Whittaker, the only person running for Iron County clerk, told The Tribune, “There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.”
When asked if the election was free and fair, he said, “Yes. And in fact, there have been many studies that have shown that it was one of the most free and fair elections we’ve ever held.”
Tanielle Callaway is the only candidate listed as running for Juab County Clerk/Auditor.
Callaway did not respond to calls and an email from The Tribune. The Juab County Sheriff’s Office website indicates she works there as an administrative assistant and, state salary data shows, she has worked for there since at least 2014.
It also appears she is married to Jeramie Callaway, a city council member in Nephi. She’s the only candidate running for clerk/auditor in Juab County.
“I love my interactions with the public in my current job with the Juab County Sheriffs Office and am looking forward to continuing to serve the residents of Juab County,” she said in a Facebook post announcing her run for clerk.
The current Kane County Clerk/Auditor, Karla Johnson, told The Tribune she has withdrawn from the race and will retire.
While Johnson was the only official candidate for the job, Chameill Lamb, who works as a deputy clerk/auditor, said she’s running as a write-in candidate for the office.
Lamb said, “based off of the data that came in, it would appear that (Biden) did win the election.”
She later said, “Based on what I witnessed, yeah, through our county and how the election processes run here, if all of the election processes are run similarly in the other counties, I would say yes.”
Millard County Clerk Marki Rowley — who is running unopposed for reelection — said she believes, “that everything was done fairly, accurately, correctly,” during the 2020 presidential election. When asked if she thought the election process was free and fair, she said, “I believe it was.”
Clerk Leslie Hyde is running unopposed for reelection in Morgan County.
Hyde did not respond to voicemails and an email sent by The Tribune.
Hyde was sworn in as the county’s clerk/auditor in January, according to county commission minutes. State salary data shows she’s been employed as a deputy clerk/auditor with Morgan County since at least 2014.
Piute County Clerk/Auditor Kali Lee Gleave is the sole candidate in the clerk’s race. State salary data shows Gleave has been the county’s clerk/auditor since at least 2015. She’s the sole candidate for the county’s clerk/auditor job.
After initially answering a call and telling The Tribune she didn’t have time to talk, Gleave did not respond to follow-up calls and voicemails.
Anneliesa Peart, the lone candidate in the Rich County clerk/auditor race, will replace retiring clerk Becky Peart (no relation to Anneliesa).
Anneliesa Peart said she believes Biden won the election, but adds, “I believe that there might have been some integrity issues in various states, but I don’t believe that there is necessarily an issue in Utah.”
“I do believe that there were some questions, but I also believe Joe Biden won the election,” she told The Tribune.
Despite expressing doubts, Anneliesa Peart said she believes the 2020 election was free and fair, saying she believes the election system is protecting Americans.
“I trust that there are enough checks and balances in place in the state of Utah and in my county, Rich County, that help me to trust the system.”
Salt Lake County
The clerk’s race in Utah’s most populous county is open, as longtime Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen announced her retirement earlier this year.
The race is between two candidates: Democratic nominee Lannie Chapman and Republican nominee Goud Maragani. Chapman has worked as the county’s chief deputy clerk since 2019. She scoffed at any idea that election results are fraudulent.
“So many of the things we do in the election field, in the Clerk’s office, are available for the public to watch,” she told The Tribune. There’s transparency everywhere.”
For Maragani, the messages are mixed. After securing the GOP nomination, he has recently walked back past comments that, “Democrats cheated and stole the election.” Goud retracted those election conspiracies after The Tribune published an investigation into his social media posts calling Democrats “commies” and “Marxists.”
San Juan County
San Juan County Clerk/Auditor Lyman Duncan is running for reelection. When the Republican was asked if Biden won the 2020 election and if it was free and fair, Duncan answered yes to both questions.
His opponent, Democratic candidate Garrett Thomas Holly, also answered yes to both questions.
Duncan was sworn in as the county’s clerk/auditor in August 2021, according to the San Juan Record. Prior to being sworn in, Duncan worked for 20 years in the health care industry for Utah Navajo Health System and San Juan Health, according to the county.
A campaign fundraising site for Holly through ActBlue, a clearinghouse for Democratic donations, says he has “years of experience in IT system management, healthcare administration, and compliance auditing for complex healthcare providers.” Holly has also appeared at campaign events alongside other San Juan County Democratic candidates running for county and state offices.
Sanpete County Clerk Sandy Neill is set to retire at the end of her term. The sole candidate to replace her is Linda Christiansen, who has worked for the county for over 25 years. She’s currently the senior permit technician for the county’s building department.
Christiansen said yes, Biden won the 2020 election. When asked if the election was free and fair, she said, “I don’t see any reason why it would be deemed unfair or unsecure.”
When asked if Biden won the 2020 election, Steven Wall, the incumbent clerk/auditor for Sevier County who is running unopposed, said “As far as I can tell, he did.”
Wall was asked if the election was free and fair, and he said, “It was in our county. I can’t answer for anywhere else, because I don’t run the election anywhere else, but I can for our county.”
Incumbent Summit County Clerk Eve Furse said yes, Biden won the election, and yes, the election was free and fair.
On the other hand, write-in candidate Dawn Mathiesen Langston said she wasn’t so sure. When asked if Biden won, she said, “I don’t know. And until we have a forensic audit on all of the votes, we won’t know.”
Asked if she thought the election was free and fair, Mathiesen Langston said, “Again, I don’t know.” She pointed to elections officials rejecting requests to turn over “CVR,” or the cast vote records, of the election, which she indicated would be used for an audit.
“It makes me wonder,” Langston said. Similar conspiracy arguments have been echoed by some elected officials in the state, including Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee.
When asked if Biden won the election, incumbent clerk Tracy Shaw told The Tribune “Yes, I believe he won.” Shaw is the sole clerk candidate for Tooele County.
Was free and fair? “I would say in the state of Utah, yes. Which is the only area that I can vouch for,” Shaw said.
Incumbent clerk/auditor Michael Wilkins said Trump won the state of Utah, and he could not speak for other states or nationwide.
When asked if the election was free and fair, he said, “All I can speak for is in my county and the state of Utah, and our processes that we have, I would say they are very fair.”
Wilkins is the only candidate running for clerk/auditor in Uintah County.
Utah County Clerk Josh Daniels is not running for reelection.
Republican nominee Aaron Davidson, and Independent American candidate Jake Oaks both did not return multiple messages from The Tribune.
Davidson is clear about his doubts about the 2020 election. On his campaign website, he says against universal mail-in ballots, saying without evidence, “Based upon the stories I’ve been receiving from the delegate and the ballot irregularities that they have received and heard of, I would venture to say, the voter rolls are nether (sic) up to date nor accurate.”
In May, Davidson spoke in a panel discussion at South Jordan’s Awaken Events Center before a screening of 2000 Mules, a conspiracy documentary by Dinesh D’Souza that claims, without evidence, that organizations paid volunteers to traffic ballots to drop boxes in states won by Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
“My number one priority is cleaning up the voter rolls,” Davidson said. “During this campaign cycle, I’ve had so many people tell me about how many ballots they’ve received at their address.”
He has also suggested that Utah County should not be spending tax dollars on the monkeypox vaccine because it would benefit gay men.
Oaks said earlier this year that if elected, he would not issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples, arguing any federal regulation of marriage is unconstitutional.
Incumbent clerk/auditor Joey Granger is running unopposed for reelection. She said yes, Biden won the 2020 election. When asked if the election was free and fair, she said “I do feel like our state and our county are definitely fair and secure elections.”
Running for reelection, Washington County Clerk/Auditor Susan Lewis said Biden certainly won nationwide and that the election was free and fair.
While write-in candidate Patricia Kent told The Tribune that Biden “absolutely” did not win the election. Kent added that she’s running as a candidate because she believes there are voter issues.
She said “there’s too much evidence that there was definitely fraud,” though she offered no examples of alleged voter fraud. Kent went on to say that Biden “has dementia and is mentally not capable of running the affairs of this nation.”
The current Wayne County clerk/auditor, Ryan Torgerson, told The Tribune he was not running for reelection.
He said there are two write-in candidates vying for the position: Felicia Snow and Adrian Ruger. Both candidates did not return calls, emails and other messages.
Wayne County’s website lists Snow as a deputy clerk in the clerk/auditor’s office. State salary data indicates she has worked as a Wayne County deputy clerk since at least 2019.
A campaign Facebook page for Ruger gives little detail on his positions, but it identifies him as a Republican and suggests he ran as a write-in candidate for clerk/auditor back in 2018.
Running unopposed in Weber County is incumbent Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch. He said yes, Biden won the election, and won freely and fairly.
Hatch said when you analyze voter fraud claims and get into the data, “you realize that the claims so far have not been substantiated to any extent.”
“It’s easy to make claims of wrongdoing and of fraud and things like that,” Hatch told The Tribune. “But the proof is in the pudding, and we haven’t seen lawsuits or evidence that provides clear evidence that there was extensive fraud.”
Salt Lake Tribune reporters Carlene Coombs and Bryan Schott contributed to this story.