Why Lt. Gov. Henderson told Utah’s county clerks that election returns are not a public record

Amid unfounded allegations of interference, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson shared a letter she said she sent to Utah’s top elections officials reminding them election returns are unable to be shared upon request.

Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson is advising county clerks to deny any open records requests from conspiracy theorists seeking data about the 2024 primary election. The message from Henderson comes as some in Utah have begun to try to use the Government Records Access Management Act to seek election data shielded from public records by state law.

Henderson posted a copy of the letter she sent to county clerks to social media on Tuesday morning, informing them that any requests for “cast vote records, ballot images, tabulator tapes, back up project databases” and other election materials are not subject to Utah’s publics records law.

[READ: ‘I’m not a conspiracy theorist’: Phil Lyman’s long shot strategy to overturn Gov. Cox’s GOP primary win]

“Your position of public trust, and the law itself, requires you to maintain the highest integrity by steadfastly adhering to statute and well-established policies, procedures and rules,” Henderson wrote. “The remedy for any individual wishing to contest an election is not through GRAMA, but through the courts.”

Henderson is referencing data from voting machines that those who believe elections have been rigged say can be used to prove unfounded claims of rampant election fraud. That data does not include voters’ personal information, but it is detailed enough that it could be used to triangulate how a person voted. Utah law specifically exempts an “election record” from GRAMA.

Henderson’s warning does not come unprompted.

A spokesperson with the lieutenant governor’s office told The Salt Lake Tribune that several requests seeking access to that data have been filed with county clerks following Utah’s June 25 primary election.

After the last presidential election, Jen Orten and Sophie Anderson — who believe that the 2020 election was stolen and are known online as “The Two Red Pills” — flooded election officials throughout Utah with requests to access election data, but they were denied access. They sued, but their case was dismissed by 4th District Judge Derek Pullan last year. An appeal in the case is pending.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gubernatorial candidate Gov. Spencer Cox, right, with Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, speaks to reporters in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, June 25, 2024 after winning the GOP nomination.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Lyman, a state lawmaker who currently trails Gov. Spencer Cox and Henderson by approximately 38,000 votes in the primary election, is also attempting to retrieve copies of the signatures the Cox/Henderson campaign gathered to secure their spot on this year’s primary ballot.

Former Lt. Gov. Greg Bell is acting as an independent adviser in the gubernatorial race while Henderson, Utah’s top elections official, is running for a second term.

Lyman is also close ally of Orten and Anderson and has appeared with them at events focused on conspiratorial claims that Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election was due to massive fraud.

Former Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee, another colleague of Orten and Anderson, tried to obtain detailed election data following the 2022 primary but was rebuffed.

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