Clifton Jolley: Are the Utahns looking for voter fraud patriots or puppets?

Are those committing election fraud likely to admit it to strangers on their doorstep?

Reporting on a report by Bryan Schott of The Salt Lake Tribune, MSNBC reported “a right-wing ghost story, spooky in many ways. … It takes place in Utah where groups of strangers are knocking on doors, which is strange already: random door knocking … by people who may or may not be wearing masks.”

Once, wearing a mask when you are knocking on doors would be far “spookier” than if you weren’t. But, as MSNBC points out, this is during a pandemic. Which makes no difference in Utah: Almost no one here wears a mask.

Also — although word is unlikely to have reached so far east as MSNBC — we have a lot of “strangers” going “two-by-two” knocking on doors all over the world, including between 1,300 and 1,800 missionaries in Utah. (Although many of those are still “tracting” over the phone.)

How to distinguish the “strangers” of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the stranger strangers of the QAnon-associated Utah Voter Verification Project reported by The Tribune?

Primarily the message. LDS missionaries want to save your soul from sin. The UVVP wants to save your vote from Democrats.

(Never mind that you could fit all the Utah Democrats in a Walmart parking lot with room left over for overnight parking.)

The UVVP is not represented by clever people. They nicknamed their movement “Team America,” which sounds like a Marvel movie, but is more likely a reference to the puppet movie “Team America: World Police,” which is an ironically appropriate synergy.

The Chicago Sun-Times described the comedy as not having “a plan for who they want to offend, only an intention to be as offensive as possible.” Similarly, these door-to-door UVVP comedians appear not to have much direction other than to “discover” non-existent election fraud, which they intend to accomplish by asking, “Did you commit any election fraud?”

If that sounds imponderably naïve, you can check it against the questions being asked, among them (again, according to Bryan Schott), persons being questioned are asked “if they received any extra ballots at their address, and what happened to them.”

The few reports of voter fraud discovered nationally (a study by Arizona State University found only 10 cases between 2000-2012) evidence that the fraudsters are not much more clever than the questioners, so it’s conceivable that if there are any fraudsters in Utah, they might respond to that question by admitting, “Yes, I received half a dozen ballots by mail, all in the names of other people, and I posted every one of them for Joe Biden. Also, I’ve been holding my neighbor hostage in my basement for the past 10 years.”

Both those admissions would be alarming. Neither would be likely.

So, as annoying as questioners for the UVVP may be (or Mormon missionaries, for that matter) they are unlikely to be as “scary” as MSNBC reports: By whatever name, the UVVP is simply silly. And missionaries? Good kids. If you’re not interested, at least give them a cookie.

Nevertheless, MSNBC is breathlessly alarmed by the UVVP’s “weird questions” and residents who complain about “strangers knocking on their doors asking questions because, I mean, who wouldn’t?” MSNBC also is alarmed that the UVVP questioners “also recorded audio and video without the consent of the person they recorded which, by the way, is legal in Utah, but still weird.”

Webster defines “weird” as being “unusual or strange,” which is a strange way to describe Utah’s “one party consent” rule, which makes videotaping legal so long as one person in the conversation (such as the questioner) is aware of the recording, as more than 40 of the states (including New York, where MSNBC is headquartered) have similar laws.

And “who wouldn’t” complain about strangers knocking on their doors? Me! I don’t know as many neighbors as I’d like, so I’m happy whenever one drops by. And I welcome missionaries of all religions because I find them generally sincere.

And my wife, a more serious Democrat than me, feels the same about questioners for the UVVP questioning us. But for a different reason:

When they question her about how many ballots she has received, she’d like to ask them, “That Team America moniker: is it because you are patriots — or puppets?”

Clifton Jolley

Clifton Jolley, Ph.D., is president of Advent Communications, Ogden.