The vote is sacred: It’s how a civilized society enacts change, transfers power and receives the consent of the governed. The right to vote has justifiably been a cause that many have sacrificed for, giving time, energy and, in some cases, even their lives. We owe much to those who have fought for voting equality and we owe sincere appreciation for those who currently work in administering our election system. However, this appreciation for the past and the present does not eliminate the need for improvement and correct perspective. Trust in Utah’s elections can only be built by overcoming the erroneous convenience narrative, retaining local jurisdiction and establishing greater verification.

Our current election system is flawed because it allows convenience to supersede accuracy, reliability and trustworthiness. Convenience has mass appeal, and for good reason. But for elections, the current push for increased convenience has led to a crisis of confidence because of the vulnerabilities created. High voter turnout is important, and all Utahns and Americans should feel that they are able to participate in the crucial process. But not at the expense of trust in our election outcomes.

For most of Utah’s history, votes were cast and ballots were counted at the local precinct level. Efforts to now centralize our election jurisdiction to counties and/or the state is unwise and contrary to building trust. Election jurisdiction must always stay closest to the People. This way, if a problem arises, the People need only look to their community to inquire and offer solutions. As such, local jurisdictions should forever retain power and decision-making ability over elections. Anything that is sacred to the People should always stay under the jurisdiction of the People’s closest elected officials — usually their city or town councils.

In the State of Utah, the Board of Canvassers has the responsibility to certify elections within a short window after an election. This is a great check in the system, but there is a significant flaw. There has been much debate in the past several years, particularly in Utah County, as to whether or not the Board of Canvassers had the right to view the cast vote record, or CVR. How can one certify something that they are not allowed to look at? To have trust in the process, we must allow our elected officials to have access to the verification process.

Additionally, there is also a concerning lack of transparency for signatures gathered to place a candidate on the ballot. The County Clerks’ office first verifies the signatures and then passes that information on to the Lieutenant Governor’s office to tally. Unlike the signatures gathered for a citizens’ initiative, these signatures are never published for transparency. Adding more transparency to this process would help the public have more confidence that these signatures were accurately obtained and tallied.

Elections and trust have long been strange bedfellows on both the left and the right. Regardless of who is crying foul, to ensure trust on all sides, convenience cannot be prioritized over accuracy, jurisdiction must stay closest to the People and verification must be more than political theater. The vote is sacred and therefore the entire electoral process needs to be built on a rock-solid foundation. It is our responsibility to advocate for this.

Natalie Clawson is gubernatorial candidate Phil Lyman’s running mate. She has been involved with politics in various capacities at the local grassroots level and is a sponsor of the Secure Vote Utah initiative.

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