New legislation creating an “independent state agency” in Utah to take over the lieutenant governor’s job of overseeing elections isn’t going to be considered during this session of the Utah Legislature.

“Things change rather quickly here on the Hill,” Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, told reporters Wednesday about pulling his bill, HB490. Instead, he said, the question of who should be in charge of elections in the state will be studied over the legislative interim.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations,” Wilcox said, with members of Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson’s office as well as county clerks, legislative leaders and others. “It varies all over the place. Everybody has different ideas.”

But he said there is recognition of what he called a “perception” issue resulting from an elected official being responsible for the state’s elections. Wilcox said that’s what his bill was intended to address, not any suggestion of fraudulent activity.

“The Elections Office, the lieutenant governor’s office, has done a great job of responding” to legislative audits, he said. “This is not about saying they’ve done a bad job. This is not about any of that. This is about the long-term structure.”

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Every election cycle state elections officials field “questions constantly about that perception,” Wilcox said, including in 2020, when Gov. Spencer Cox was both lieutenant governor and running for the office he now holds.

Then, Cox brought in former Lt. Gov. Gayle McKeachnie in an advisory capacity as a resource to review any election issues related to the governor’s race, in an effort to “avoid any actual or perceived bias.”

Wilcox also referred to unproven allegations about the outcome of Arizona’ races in 2020, saying “whether that’s reality or not, there’s a sizable population in that state that believes that it was a fraudulent election.”

Arizona is one of 35 states that have an elected secretary of state to oversee elections. Utah did, too, until 1976, when the Legislature abolished the office and turned over the secretary of state’s duties to the newly created office of the lieutenant governor.

Wilcox said Utah bringing back the secretary of state position would just be “the same thing under a different name.” He said it’s a matter of whether “one person should carry that particular burden.”

Under his bill, Utah’s statewide elected officials — the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor and attorney general — along with the Legislatures’s House speaker and Senate president, would hire and oversee the director of a new state Elections Office.

The bill calls for the director to serve as the state’s new chief election officer, running a new state agency that would “assume all responsibility for elections currently under the authority of the lieutenant governor.”

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The new Elections Office “essentially would function exactly as they currently function right now, just with a little bit different oversight that is dispersed amongst the group,” Wilcox said.

“I like the bill as it is,” he said, acknowledging that it is late in the 45-day session that ends March 1 to be tackling such a big topic. “Still, I think it’s smart to go ahead and do it now and just remove it from the conversation if we can. But I’m a team player.”

The lieutenant governor said in a statement that, “As a Utahn and former legislator, I have a deep love for the legislative process and respect for the men and women who serve in these roles.”

Henderson, who was in the state senate when she agreed to be Cox’s running mate, said Wilcox “is a friend with a sincere heart who has done a lot of good for our state. I look forward to working on this and many other issues with him in the future.”

A House Democratic leader pointed out all of the elected officials who would appoint a state elections director under the bill are members of the Republican supermajority, and offered support for the lieutenant governor’s office.

“I’ve always found them to be very transparent, up front, honest.,” House Minority Whip Jen Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, told reporters. “They work really hard to maintain the integrity of the process.”