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Ex-Juab County clerk faces 8 charges accusing her of shredding election ballots

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson called the criminal charges ‘serious,’ but said there is no reason to believe clerk’s actions affected the outcome of the election

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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Eight criminal charges were filed Thursday against Juab County's former clerk/auditor accusing her of shredding ballots from the 2022 general election and placing ballots from the 2020 general election that were supposed to be preserved in an unsecured location.

Investigators say the ballots were supposed to be preserved because of pending lawsuits.

Alaina Elder Lofgran, 67, is charged in 4th District Court with willful neglect of duty, destroying or concealing ballots, and destroying public records, third-degree felonies; tampering with ballots, a class A misdemeanor; plus two counts of improper disposition of ballots and two counts of unofficial misconduct, class B misdemeanors.

Earlier this year, Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson asked the Utah Attorney General’s Office to investigate Lofgran after current county officials reported potential election misconduct. A subpoena was served on March 6, but no other details were provided.

Henderson called the criminal charges "serious" on Thursday, but said there is no reason to believe Lofgran's actions affected the outcome of the election.

The lieutenant governor said in a prepared statement the charges "reflect the heavy responsibility of county clerks to uphold election law. Public trust demands accountability of those who swear oaths to fulfill their duties with fidelity and then fail to do so.

"The 2022 election, administered by Ms. Lofrgran, was properly certified by the Juab County Commission. We have no reason to believe her actions affected its outcome."

According to the charging documents filed Thursday, Lofgran's role as county clerk required her to "deposit and lock ballots and election returns in a safe and secure place, preserve ballots for 22 months after the election or until the time has expired during which the ballots could be used in an election contest, and in the event of an election contest, 'keep the ballots and election returns unopened and unaltered until the contest is complete.'"

On March 19, 2022, about 16 months after the November 2020 general election, "a lawsuit was filed against Juab County and several other Utah counties. This lawsuit related to citizen requests for 2020 election records, including Juab County election records," the charges state.

In April 2022. Juab County was ordered by a judge to "preserve the election records associated with the 2020 general election until the resolution of the litigation," according to the charges. A judge dismissed that lawsuit in August 2022, but an appeal was filed by the plaintiffs

"The preservation order related to the 2020 election records was reissued in early fall of 2022 because of the appeal to the Utah Supreme Court," the charges state. "(Lofgran) knew she had to retain the material until the appeal was resolved by the Utah Supreme Court."

Just after the Nov. 8, 2022, general election, Lofgran "was observed placing the ballots from the 2022 general election in a shred bin," according to charging documents.

Approximately one week later, "a problem required that the ballots be recounted. The 2022 ballots were then pulled out of the shred bin." After the recount, the ballots were placed on a shelf in a large closet in the clerk's office, the court documents state. But around Thanksgiving 2022, Lofgran was observed putting the ballots in the shred bin again.

Lorgran told the deputy county clerk, "We don't need them anymore," and said the 2022 election reports had been completed, the charging documents allege. The bins were picked up by the shred company on Nov. 23 and Dec. 22, 2022.

When questioned about the 2022 ballots, Lofgran was also asked about preserving the 2020 ballots due to a pending lawsuit against Juab County and stated that those ballots had been put in "the vault," which is a basement storage room in Juab County, the charges state.

State investigators searched "the vault" in March and found: 1) "a cardboard banker box labeled, '2022 General Election,' which held 260 undeliverable or otherwise spoiled ballots; 2) a plastic tote with no lid labeled '2020 General Election,' which held 2,088 presidential primary ballots; 3) a cardboard banker box labeled '2022 Primary Election,' which contained 261 undeliverable or spoiled ballots; and 4) a cardboard box labeled '2022 Primary Election,' which contained ... 2,474 ballots."

The 4,795 ballots that were cast in Juab County and counted in the 2022 general election were not found, nor were any ballot envelopes. There was a total of 5,932 ballots cast in Juab County in the 2020 general election. Most of the 2020 general election ballots and envelopes were not found, according to charging documents.

In April, a fifth box, labeled "2020 Election Audit," was found in the Juab County Clerk's Office in the small locked closet, prosecutors noted.

It contained "80 ballots dated Nov. 3, 2020; 111 ballots dated June 30, 2020; and 24 ballots dated March 3, 2020. Because of (Lofgran's) active shredding of the 2022 general election ballots and placement of the 2020 ballots in an unsecured location, (her) successor, the current Juab County clerk, does not have these records related to the office," the charges say.

The maximum penalty for a third-degree felony is a prison term of zero to five years.