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Trump's claims of voter fraud 'dangerous' and erode confidence, Lt. Gov. Cox says

FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2016 file photo, Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Sarasota, Fla. Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Monday that President-elect Trump's claims of massive voter fraud are "dangerous" and erode the public's confidence
FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2016 file photo, Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Sarasota, Fla. Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Monday that President-elect Trump's claims of massive voter fraud are "dangerous" and erode the public's confidence in election results.
Evan Vucci, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — President-elect Donald Trump's claims of massive voter fraud are "dangerous" and erode the public's confidence in election results, Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Monday.

Cox made his statements after the State Board of Canvassers met and certified Utah's election results in statewide and multicounty races, including Trump's win with 45.5 percent of the vote.

Democrat Hillary Clinton had 27.5 percent of the vote in the official results in Utah, and independent candidate Evan McMullin, 21.5 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson, with 3.5 percent, was the only other candidate with more than 1 percent of the vote.

The meeting of the state board made up of Cox, Attorney General Sean Reyes, Auditor John Dougall and Treasurer David Damschen came a day after Trump tweeted about "millions of people who voted illegally" and "serious voter fraud."

The lieutenant governor, who oversees elections, said he is "very, very confident that the results are what the results are" in Utah and that the numbers approved unanimously are "absolutely accurate."

He called on Trump to "tone down" his statements questioning the results in Virginia, New Hampshire and California, apparently based on a conspiracy theory making the rounds on the internet.

"It's unfortunate that those are being brought up without any evidence, completely unsubstantiated. It does erode confidence in what is the bedrock foundation of our democratic republic, of our country," Cox said. "I feel it's dangerous."

Reyes, a Trump supporter, left the board meeting without answering questions from reporters and was not available to comment on Trump's claims.

The Republican lieutenant governor, who never backed his party's presidential pick, said he hopes "that we can tone down that rhetoric moving forward and stick with the facts and what we know."

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swenson said election officials work hard and "it is just so discouraging and disappointing to have someone throw out an unfounded, baseless allegation like that and put in the minds of people, it's all for nothing."

Swenson, a Democrat, said before the election that Trump had apparently turned off some Utahns to voting by mail when he expressed skepticism of Colorado's vote-by-mail system and urged voters there to cast their ballots in person.

"All of that played into what happened this year, and maybe that's why they were less trusting of vote by mail than they might have been had that not occurred," Swenson said.

Salt Lake County saw long lines on Election Day at polling places because fewer voters than anticipated used vote by mail and early voting options and the number of voting sites were limited.

Still, the lieutenant governor said 21 of 29 counties that largely conducted by-mail elections "outperformed" the rest of the state in voter turnout, which reached 82 percent of voters who'd cast ballots at least once in the past eight years.

The active registered voter turnout in 2012, when favorite son GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was at the top of the ticket, was just over 80 percent. This year's turnout barely beat 1988, when voter turnout hit just under 82 percent.

Cox credited Utah's surprising swing state status for boosting voter interest. Utah voters, who haven't voted for a Democrat for president since 1964, considered McMullin as a conservative alternative to Trump but in the end stuck with the GOP.

Trump's success in Utah and other states makes his latest allegations about voter fraud all the more confusing, said Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly suggested the system was "rigged" against him and now "he's still saying some of this when really, the best thing, the best revenge he could have, is just to declare victory," Perry said.

Instead, Trump tweets followed the news that Clinton's campaign is joining Green Party candidate Jill Stein is calling for a recount in Wisconsin. Clinton lost the electoral vote but won the U.S. popular vote by more than 2.2 million votes.

The president-elect disputed that Sunday on Twitter, writing, "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

Later, he got more specific but offered no evidence, tweeting: "Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California — so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias — big problem!"

Perry said now that Trump is no longer a candidate but the president-elect, his behavior "is a little bit irresponsible" because "once you win the election and you are the person that is going to lead, everything you say does matter."

He said Trump should be focused on putting together his administration in preparation for taking office in January. That, Perry said, is what Americans are interested in, not "feeding people's concerns" about the election outcome.

"As we've seen through the entire election, what we're talking about is his latest tweet," Perry said. "At some point, he's going to have to put his phone down and start governing."