Rep. Phil Lyman tried leveraging official role to get private election data in race against Utah Gov. Cox

Lyman, who is trailing Cox by nearly 10 percentage points in the 2024 GOP Republican gubernatorial primary election, has also sued Utah’s top elections officials, including Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.

Phil Lyman used his position as a state lawmaker to pursue voter data protected by state law in his primary election race against Republican Gov. Spencer Cox. And after leveraging his perceived authority as a legislator was apparently unsuccessful, Lyman is now suing the state’s top elections officials.

According to documents obtained through an open records request by The Salt Lake Tribune, Lyman sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson’s office on June 28 asking for a copy of the “complete voter rolls related to the 2024 primary election.” The letter was on his official legislative letterhead and signed “Representative Lyman.”

Lyman and Natalie Clawson are challenging Gov. Spencer Cox and Henderson in the GOP primary election. As of Friday, they trail the incumbents by about 10 percentage points.

In the letter, Lyman asserts he is “entitled to these records as a legislator” and the records “are not for campaign purposes,”while also saying he wants the records “for statistical analysis of the 2024 primary election” and to “crosscheck the signatures gathered for certain candidates.”

Lyman does not sit on any legislative committees that would consider election-related issues.

Lyman insists that, as an elected official, he should be given access to these records regardless of motive.

“I’m a legislator,” Lyman responded in a text message when asked by The Tribune how the request related to his legislative duties.

Now, Lyman and Clawson are suing in a renewed attempt to gain access to voter signature packets used by the Cox/Henderson campaign to get on the GOP ballot, alleging in a lawsuit that Henderson, in her capacity as lieutenant governor, has “failed to engage in the balancing of interest required” in state law to disclose private information contained in those signature packets.

They said the results of a public records request for the signature packets had been returned heavily redacted by Henderson’s office.

“Due to the overriding concerns for election transparency and integrity, the [lieutenant governor’s] office must be required to disclose unredacted nominating petitions, Signature Packets, and other voter registration information sufficient to allow Plaintiffs to evaluate, verify, and/or challenge the signatures ...,” Lyman and Clawson say in their lawsuit filed in Utah’s 3rd District Court on July 3.

Utah voter registration information, including name, address, age and voting history, are publicly available by default.

But Utahns can choose to make that information private, prohibiting disclosure of the information to everyone except for political parties, candidates and some elections officials — and even those exemptions include restrictions on how that information can be used. Some voters, including domestic violence victims, law enforcement officers, military members or other high-profile people, can ask to have their information withheld from being made public under any circumstances.

2024.07.08 Lyman Letter by Bryan Schott on Scribd

The pair, along with Lyman’s campaign, are listed as plaintiffs. Henderson and Utah Elections Director Ryan Cowley, both in their capacities as the state’s top elections officials, along with Mallory Underwood, in her official capacity as an administrator in Henderson’s office, are named as defendants.

Lyman and Clawson are asking a judge to order the defendants to give them access to those signature packets, to include information that voters had requested to remain private.

A spokesperson for Henderson said the office would not comment on an active lawsuit.

Lyman refused to answer questions from The Salt Lake Tribune, while Cox campaign spokesperson Matt Lusty scoffed at Lyman’s lawsuit.

“Phil lost with Utah Republican voters, and it wasn’t close,” Lusty told The Salt Lake Tribune. “He’s already lost once with a judge during this election cycle, and he’ll lose again with this lawsuit and the others he says he intends to file.”

A spokesperson from the Utah House of Representatives did not respond to a request for comment on Lyman using his official title in an attempt to access the voter data.

Shortly after the election, and when it was clear Lyman was projected to lose, Lyman called into question the signatures the Cox/Henderson campaign collected — which were verified by Davis County Clerk Brian McKenzie — because some signatures collected by the same company Cox used in this year’s election had been thrown out in an unrelated legislative race.

“Utahns are being lied to” and the election had not been unbiased, Lyman said in a half-hour-long video posted to social media days after the election. He also called Cox a “weasel.”

Late on election night, unofficial early returns from all of Utah’s 29 counties showed Cox in the lead with 56.57% of votes to Lyman’s 41.01%. As of Friday, Cox’s lead remained at nearly 10 percentage points, 54.45% to 45.55.

Lyman has attempted to use his official position to gain access to non-public information before.

In 2021, he and former Rep. Steve Christiansen sent similar letters on legislative letterhead to Henderson’s office seeking access to Utah’s entire voter database. Henderson denied that request, saying there was nothing in the request demonstrating they were acting in the capacity of a government official.

(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.

Two of Lyman’s close allies, Jennifer Orten and Sophie Anderson, known online as the “Two Red Pills,” requested the “cast vote record” from several Utah counties after the 2020 presidential election. Those requests were rejected and the duo eventually sued. That case was dismissed last year and that ruling has been appealed.

Those records are frequently requested by election conspiracy theorists who believe they contain proof that election results have been manipulated or support claims of rampant election fraud.

Orten, Anderson and Lyman have aligned themselves with other high-profile election deniers, including My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.

And during this year’s primary election, Lyman, Clawson and Anderson submitted nearly identical open records requests all within 24 hours to the lieutenant governor’s office seeking signature lists submitted by Cox and several other candidates..

On July 3, Henderson advised county clerks to deny any open records seeking data about the 2024 primary election. The day before Henderson’s warning, Lyman submitted an open records request to Salt Lake County election officials asking for the cast vote records, tabulator information, ballot images, tabulator tapes and the backup database for the 2024 primary.

“We always believe that, in the end, truth will win, and we proved that again tonight,” Cox said at his election night party.

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