Cache County election officials falsified records, violated Utah election law, report says

“Under your watch, the 2023 Cache County municipal primary and general elections fell unacceptably short of those statutory obligations,” Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson wrote of clerk.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cache County offices at 179 North Main in Logan on Thursday, May 18, 2023. A report from the Utah lieutenant governor's office alleges Cache County Clerk/Auditor David Benson mismanaged the county's 2023 general elections.

Logan • A review of the Cache County clerk’s office’s handling of the county’s 2023 general municipal election resulted in “deeply troubling” findings and observations by the Utah lieutenant governor’s office, according to a new report from the state’s top elections official.

“My team not only found an unprecedented lack of controls, widespread violations of Utah election law and administrative rule, but also a pointed disregard for policy and practices established by my office,” Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson wrote in a letter addressed to Cache County Clerk/Auditor David Benson.

Among the lieutenant governor’s office’s major findings, they alleged the county clerk’s office falsified a legally required “logic and accuracy test” of the county’s elections equipment ahead of the general election, and Benson later told state auditors he did not conduct a second logic and accuracy test after receiving new ballot data.

“Under your watch, the 2023 Cache County municipal primary and general elections fell unacceptably short of those statutory obligations. Failure to adhere to statute creates opportunities for fraud and election manipulation to occur,” Henderson wrote. “Fidelity to your oath of office demands that you correct these problems immediately.”

According to the report, members of the lieutenant governor’s office began reviewing Cache County’s election procedures on December 5, two weeks after last year’s general municipal election. Sometime the following week, Benson placed himself and two other county employees on administrative leave “regarding a concern identified by the Lt. Governor’s election staff,” county officials said then.

[Read also: Report from Utah Lt. Gov.’s office alleges Cache County election officials falsified official records]

While the lieutenant governor’s office review of Benson’s handling of the 2023 election found “no evidence of fraud” and no evidence that election results were improperly certified, state election officials did uncover “significant problems including poor chain of custody practices that could have introduced numerous opportunities for bad actors to impact the county’s election results.”

Henderson’s office found 31 separate issues with how the county ran last year’s election and has ordered Benson to provide a written response and action plan on how the county will fix the issues before Feb. 20.

During a work session on Tuesday afternoon, Utah’s director of elections, Ryan Cowley, walked the Cache County Council through the report.

Despite the number of issues the office identified, Cowley said the lieutenant governor’s office found no evidence that would question the outcome of the 2023 elections in Cache County.

“We did not find evidence of fraud, but the opportunities were there,” he told council members.

Benson also spoke during the meeting and said the county clerk’s office has already addressed 27 of the 31 issues identified in the report.

“Given the serious nature of the recommendations, I am encouraged that your office found no evidence that the November 2023 general election results weren’t properly certified,” Benson said to Cowley during Tuesday’s meeting. “I genuinely appreciate the significant effort represented by this review, and assure you of my unwavering commitment to addressing the issue of these issues in a speedy, thorough and conscientious manner.”

After Benson and Cowley’s reports, multiple council members thanked the lieutenant governor’s office for their investigative efforts and for presenting their findings.

“Us as a council thanks you so much for that,” said council member Nolan Gunnell, “we hope to make Cache County shine and our elections are done in the right and proper manner.”

After the meeting, Benson declined to comment further on the report.