Opinion: Utah’s elections are secure and fair
I’m extremely concerned about any public official who deliberately cites pseudo-science and spreads conspiracies, who asks questions not because they seek answers, but wants to score political points by casting doubt on the system
As lieutenant governor, I am Utah’s chief election officer. In that role, I oversee all elections in the state, although I do not run them. That is done at the local county and municipal level. For self-governance to work, citizens must trust the system, and I fear that trust in our free and fair elections is eroding.
I’m extremely concerned about any public official who deliberately cites pseudo-science and spreads conspiracies, who asks questions not because they seek answers, but wants to score political points by casting doubt on the system. These actions are dangerous and threaten to undermine the very foundations of our constitutional republic.
In the United States of America, we believe in the peaceful transfer of power. We value the fact that every citizen has the right to have his or her voice heard and to express support or opposition to government leaders and policies. We understand that sometimes your candidate wins and sometimes your candidate loses, but we should take heart that there is always another election.
Since becoming lieutenant governor 10 months ago, I have learned a whole lot about how we conduct elections in Utah.
I’ve learned how signatures are verified, how addresses are validated and how ballots are counted. I’ve learned how voting machines work, how we ensure that ballot drop boxes are secure, how mail-in ballots are processed and how we guarantee ballots remain secret as required by the state constitution. I have also learned that we don’t have to choose between security and convenience in our elections. We can and do have both.
So far this year, I have visited 21 of the 29 county clerk offices throughout the state and I can say unequivocally that election law is being strictly observed and faithfully executed by our dedicated local election personnel.
That’s why I’m dismayed by some of the accusations and inaccuracies in circulation. Allegations of fraud and other types of misinformation — especially when they come from public officials — threaten to undermine public confidence in our democratic processes. And they are just plain false.
We have multiple safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of the process, including public audits, chain of custody requirements, Utah REAL ID, signature verification, not connecting voting machines to the internet, and a process for candidates and citizens to challenge the results of an election.
Last year, there were a total of 462 individual races throughout the state, and to my knowledge, there was not a single challenge to any of those results.
That being said, we are continually learning and improving our systems and processes. Over the past few years, our state has made methodical and deliberate improvements to election law including universal vote by mail, voter ballot tracking and same-day voter registration. These measures have made voting easier and tamper-proof.
Currently, I am working with Rep. Jon Hawkins and county clerks from across the state to propose legislation that would establish additional election safeguards including audits of voter registration rolls, post-election audits that provide an independent review of the process, and improvements to the controls governing ballot processing.
Underlying all of these actions is the desire to increase voter turnout and to make certain that elections stay safe and secure.
The esteemed Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “The most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of private citizen.”
The municipal general election occurs in less than two weeks. I encourage all private citizens to see the election process for themselves. Become an election volunteer. Bring your questions to your county clerk. And, most importantly, cast your ballot.
Let us not heed baseless claims that undermine the public’s faith in our election processes. Doing so only jeopardizes our form of government and our very freedom.
Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson is the ninth lieutenant governor of the state of Utah.