Last week the Salt Lake Tribune ran a commentary by the Republican candidate for Salt Lake county clerk, Goud Maragani.
He’s honed his message of mistrust since speaking at the “Stop the Steal” rally in March alongside Tina Peters -- the Colorado county clerk indicted on felony charges for tampering with election equipment. Recently Peters made national headlines again for violating the conditions of her $25,000 bond by traveling to Las Vegas. When caught, Peters blamed her lawyer, of course, because zealots believe rules are for everybody else.
Utahns might recall Peters’ visit here headlining Utah’s “Stop the Steal” rally sponsored by far-right Utah Patriots militia group and publicized on the anti-government channel Utah Telegram. According to a Tribune story, Peters and Utah conspiracy-theory darlings Jenn Orton and Sophie Anders were joined by Maragani.
For some reason, Maragani considers himself celebrity enough to go by a single moniker – Goud. His campaign materials and yard signs shout “GOUD for County Clerk!” and he thinks we need his solutions to a problem of his own invention.
Despite a Utah House committee decision in March finding no evidence of fraud, and continued public support for Utah’s vote-by-mail system, Goud continues to push hard for more “transparency.” The Utah Legislature has determined that voter registration records are public information, so the limited protections voters do have are tightly guarded by most county clerks and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.
Yet Goud, Orton, Anders and a group of unofficial “Election Integrity” committee volunteers spent the last year harassing county clerks and state election officials to obtain sealed election records that contain your and my voting data. The information they managed to get their hands on has formed the basis for a squishy report Goud is using to run for Salt Lake County Clerk.
Anders’ attempts to hack into Gov. Spencer Cox’s “protected” texts and emails, and Orton’s lawsuit to procure election configurations and settings complied for state auditors only, provoked Henderson to issue warnings to county clerks not to release records to “self-appointed, unelected, untrained, and uncertified individuals to audit election results.”
Still, in his May press conference Goud accused election officials of being “uncooperative,” punctuating his sentence with “right?”
Goud claims that, as county clerk, he would spend countless hours on the phone with anyone seeking GRAMA requests, offering advice and giving records out for free. Evidently Goud’s bougie tech-industry lawyer gig has not prepared him for a demanding and sometimes grumpy public.
The results from Goud’s “Election Integrity Report,” reluctantly endorsed by GOP County Chair Chris Null, are inconclusive and the data is not reproducible making it statistically irrelevant.
Goud claims that mailed ballots can disappear into thin air. When in fact, anyone can track their ballot from start to finish at https://slco.org/clerk/elections/vote-by-mail/, and that drop boxes are easily tampered with, when my experience at a drop box was pulling up to find two Salt Lake City Police cars parked nearby.
For the past 31 years Utah Republicans in state offices have held both a trifecta and a Republican triplex. So why would a Republican candidate claim fraud and alienate the Governor’s Office, contradict the Legislature, and align himself with fringe elements -- unless he thought himself so clever that with some contrived data and self-hype, he could jump start his political career, entrench himself in the system, and begin to manipulate the ground rules of electoral politics.
Goud isn’t interested in transparency; he’s interested in finding a campaign platform to challenge his opponent Chief Deputy Clerk Lannie Chapman who previously served as a Deputy District Attorney in the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office, and since 2019 has been working hard for voters, setting an example of the true meaning of integrity, and protecting your data from being misused.
Kathy Adams, Salt Lake City, is a former dance writer at the Salt Lake Tribune (2002-2019) and has written for Salt Lake Magazine, Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Dance Spirit Magazine, Dance Studio Life and more.