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Opinion: We believe independent audits build trust in our elections

As confidence in our election system wavers, transparency about the process and continued efforts to enhance voter roll and ballot security are more important than ever

A voter puts a ballot into an official drop box.
Millie Wetterberg places her ballot into an official ballot drop box at the Salt Lake County Offices in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The right to vote, and confidence in our elections are fundamental to the function of our republic. As legislators, we recognize it is our duty to strengthen confidence in our election system, not by blindly accepting it as secure, rather by consistently scrutinizing and enhancing the process by which ballots are printed, distributed, tallied and safeguarded for appropriate verifications.

Utah has a well-earned reputation as one of the most innovative states when it comes to conducting elections. Voting by mail has largely replaced in-person voting across the state, and the process by which votes are tabulated is layered with verification points to prevent election fraud.

Nevertheless, last summer an NBC/SurveyMonkey poll showed a disturbing trend in public sentiment, as only 55% of all Americans felt confident that the 2021 elections would be conducted with integrity.

As confidence in our election system wavers, transparency about the process and continued efforts to enhance voter roll and ballot security are more important than ever. As legislators, we regularly receive audit reports related to state agencies and departments. These audits are routine and serve to provide direction and security for all involved stakeholders including taxpayers, those who receive services, and those who are employed in the agencies and departments.

Furthermore, audits are routine practices among most private and public organizations. Business and government leaders don’t typically view audits as chastisement or punishment; they recognize them as safeguards that are vital to assessing potential risks while aiding enhancement of important processes and procedures to overcome those risks.

Routine independent audits of our elections would likewise identify areas for improvement and strengthen overall trust in the system. Any person, organization or political party who fundamentally disagrees with routinely auditing such systems should themselves be questioned.

While our intentions were recently attacked by the Utah Democratic Party for wanting to assure confidence in our election processes, the question must be asked, what are they afraid of? Trust but verify is the right way to go.

Campaigns are political but elections should not be. Those chosen by the will of the people govern best when armed with confidence in the legitimacy of their victory just as a political loss is easier to swallow when the process is beyond reproach. While perfection cannot be the standard for confidence in our election process or system, it should be the goal we all, regardless of political party, are determined to pursue.

Rep. Mike Schultz represents House District 12 and currently holds the position as House majority leader. Rep. Phil Lyman represents House District 73, and Rep. Mike Petersen represents House District 3.

Editor’s note: At the request of the authors, two paragraphs concerning the maintenance of county voter databases were deleted from this opinion piece.