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Utah lawmakers who undermine faith in elections should resign their seats, Editorial Board writes

Reps. Steve Christiansen and Phil Lyman are attacking the very core of our democracy.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-South Jordan and Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding push for a forensic audit of the 2020 election during Wednesday's Judiciary Interim Committee's meeting on election integrity, to "hear presentations on perspectives regarding election integrity" according to the agenda.

The people of Utah have many problems that their government isn’t handling all that well.

A dearth of affordable housing. Overcrowded and underfunded schools. We cannot seem to get our act together on testing, vaccine mandates and other steps needed to finally slay the COVID-19 dragon. The air is foul. Traffic is a monster.

And we’re running out of water.

Yet a small fringe of a fringe of the Utah Legislature is mounting a crusade to ignore — to distract us from — finding solutions to all of our real problems by undermining the public’s faith in what is, perhaps, the thing that our state government is best at.

Running elections.

If these particular elected officials don’t have anything better to do than to, without cause or evidence, weaken our belief in our electoral system, they should resign their seats in the Legislature and devote themselves to their true calling of undermining democracy on social media. If they won’t, it will be up to legislative leadership to denounce these destructive efforts and make it clear they will go no further.

While the gerrymandering of legislative districts will always be with us, the fact is that Utah is a national leader in carrying out the very core of democracy — getting people to vote.

Voter registration is easy here. ID requirements are reasonable. We have early voting, same-day registration and practically universal vote by mail. A worthy experiment in ranked-choice voting is underway in many cities. There are no credible accounts of irregularities, fraud, ballot box stuffing or missing votes here. The process is clearly defined, open and, by the most important metric there is — increasing voter participation — a rousing success.

But by pushing for an ill-defined “audit” of 2020 elections results, state Reps. Steve Christiansen, R-South Jordan, and Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, have outed themselves as purveyors of the Big Lie. They are less politicians than they are conspiracy theorists who, with zero evidence that anything was wrong with any precinct, city or county’s count, are inciting their fellow Trumpists to doubt the integrity of the state’s electoral system for no other reason than a gut feeling that something must be amiss.

The two have been caught worshiping at the alter of the My Pillow Guy and the lunatic fringe of the Arizona Republican Party, who have throughly embarrassed themselves by spouting unproven and disproven theories of how an election that Joe Biden won by a margin of 7 million votes was somehow stolen.

There is no chance that the elections of 2020 — including the balloting that got Christiansen and Lyman their seats — are going to be thrown out. The risk — the point — of all this fuss is to incite doubt about future elections, discourage voting, make it easier to claim fraud when none exists, encourage state and local officials to overturn election results on the flimsiest and most blatantly partisan of pretenses, perhaps even incite the kind of violence we witnessed at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Legislative leaders, to their credit, are not exactly encouraging this wild snipe hunt. The chair of a Wednesday committee hearing on state elections, Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Layton, was having none of it. Though lawmakers showed perhaps excessive forbearance in hearing out a room full of extremists who claim everyone from the Chinese Communist Party to Black Lives Matter had somehow cooked the books.

Other top lawmakers and executive branch officials have managed to ignore Christiansen’s calls for permission to rummage around in the state’s voter registration records in search of reams of personal information about voters. Stuff that is clearly none of his business.

It would be better still if such worthies as Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson would go beyond ducking the unpleasantness and come out with a firm renunciation of those who are trying to get the voters of Utah to think there’s something wrong with their elections.

They, and we, have much more important issues to work on. If legislators such as Christensen and Lyman won’t follow and can’t lead, they should get out of the way, resign their seats and let someone else face our real challenges.


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