County clerks across Utah will send out election ballots Tuesday, and nearly 7 in 10 voters intend to return them in the same way that they arrive — through the mail.

Also, an overwhelming majority of Utahns have confidence that the 2022 election will be run fairly and accurately.

Those are the findings of a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll of registered voters in the state.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who oversees elections in Utah, said she’s “thrilled” with the outcome of the survey.

“It’s been a rough couple of years. There’s been a steady drumbeat of negativity by a few people who are doing everything they can to undermine the public’s confidence in our elections and our processes,” she said.

The vast majority of questions about Utah elections have been sincere, “but there are a few people who are working really hard to stir all of this up and their motivation isn’t to solve problems,” Henderson said.

“I think this poll shows that people in the state of Utah aren’t buying into it. The people in Utah are level-headed. They see things for what they are and they’re not being influenced by these folks that really have underlying political malinentions, in my opinion.”

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The survey found 89% of Utahns are confident — including 46% who are very confident — that state and local governments will conduct a fair and accurate election. That’s up 8% over a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute survey earlier this year.

Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch attributes at least some of that increase to election officials’ efforts to educate Utahns about how the electoral process works.

“We’ve talked a lot about it. What can we do to improve voter confidence? And in the end, it really comes down to two things — transparency and telling our story,” he said.

Broken down along party lines, the poll shows a high degree of confidence among self-identified Republicans at 88% and Democrats at 91%. Those who identified as unaffiliated voters came in at 87%.

At 76%, voters who consider themselves “very” conservative had the least amount of confidence in election security of any demographic in the survey.

Still, Henderson said she’s thrilled with the number but wants to go after the remainder to help them feel the election will be fair and accurate and that their vote will be counted.

Hatch echoed those thoughts. He found the overall survey results “encouraging” but said there’s still work to do to gain the trust of more voters.

The poll found that 68% of Utahns plan to vote by mail, 23% in person on Nov. 8, 5% in person ahead of Election Day and 4% don’t know.

Democrats in the survey were more inclined to vote by mail than Republicans, 77% to 66%. And less than half — 48% — of “very” conservative voters intend to vote by mail, with 47% saying they will vote in person on or before Election Day.

Dan Jones & Associates conducted the poll of 801 registered Utah voters Oct. 3-6. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.

“It makes me a little nervous,” Hatch said of the poll results.

In the last election, 97% of Weber County residents voted by mail. About 4,000 voted in person that year but that could balloon to 20,000 at the voting center in Ogden if the poll numbers are any indication, bringing traffic and long lines, he said.

“We’re prepared to do that, but that’s a big number,” Hatch said.

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As part of Election Day preparations, the county plans to have uniformed officers at its two in-person voting locations in Ogden and Huntsville to protect voters, volunteer poll workers and election officials. It also installed new cameras at ballot drop boxes.

Hatch said threats have already been made, and some groups questioning election integrity have identified him as public enemy No. 1 and a “lackey for the lieutenant governor.”

Henderson is aware of the threats.

“There have been some really, really ugly things that have been happening and it’s disappointing,” she said. “People really do need to ease up and think before they speak.”

Earlier this year, a Utah legislative committee rejected a bill to return the state to in-person voting by default after opponents argued that it could disenfranchise voters and had few discernible security benefits.

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Last October, GOP Rep. Steve Christiansen, who later resigned amid backlash, held a rally outside the state Capitol and led a committee hearing fraught with misinformation calling for a “forensic” audit of the 2020 election in Utah, even though former President Donald Trump handily won the state.

Henderson and Gov. Spencer Cox, both Republicans, have expressed frustration over false information about election integrity in Utah.

“It’s much easier to sell lies and outrage and misinformation than it is to sell calm, reasoned, rational truth,” Henderson said.

Since Utah started vote-by-mail a decade ago, voter participation has increased dramatically. But Hatch said the biggest benefit is that voters are more informed because getting the ballot three weeks before the election allows them to study the candidates and the issues.

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Henderson and Hatch said the state and counties have worked hard to improve the election system, increase transparency and be open to any and all questions about the system. Counties throughout the state have held public meetings and offered tours to show how voting machines work and how votes are counted.

“We know that we’re not perfect. We’re not afraid to have people ask us questions and challenge us and challenge the process. We welcome that if it helps keep us on our toes,” Hatch said.

But neither he nor Henderson expects accusations about election integrity will subside in the future, especially if there is a close race.

“That’s the sad truth,” Henderson said.

Hatch said his office is already planning for the 2024 election.

“We don’t think it’s going to slow down at all. We think these groups, and they’ve told us, they are committed and engaged and they’re not going away,” he said. “The pressure always increases in a presidential election year.”

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