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Utah legislature orders 'election integrity' audit

Posted at 4:39 PM, Dec 08, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Legislature's powerful audit subcommittee has ordered an "election integrity audit."

The committee, which is made up of House and Senate Republican and Democratic leadership, voted late Tuesday along party lines to order the audit. It was requested by House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper.

In an interview with FOX 13, he insisted it was to put concerns about Utah's election system to rest once and for all.

"I think this is an effort to restore confidence with all groups, all citizens of the state," Rep. Schultz said.

He said the audit was not focused on the 2020 election.

"Donald Trump won Utah. There’s nothing to audit there," he said. "This is really about the processes we have in place, making sure they’re working."

Lawmakers have faced pressure to audit the 2020 election from activists who have claimed fraud, without any evidence. Rep. Schultz joined a few other Utah lawmakers and signed on to a letter calling for audits in all 50 states. Utah State Auditor John Dougall told FOX 13 he has received numerous requests to conduct an election audit, but so far has not ordered one because no one has pointed to a specific problem with the election itself.

Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, who is the state's chief elections officer, said there has been no evidence of problems in Utah's elections. She's been traveling the state meeting with county clerks and local elections officials.

"I haven’t found anything that would concern me at all of the validity of the outcomes we have in our elections. Nothing," she said in an interview with FOX 13. "There’s no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of our elections officials. There’s no evidence of fraud."

Lt. Gov. Henderson said the legislature is within its prerogative to order an audit, and she has no concerns that they will find anything. But she expressed concern with increasing rhetoric from some casting doubt on the integrity of Utah's election systems and where it's headed.

"The endgame has nothing to do with 2020. The endgame is to restrict access to voters who these people don’t agree with. That’s the endgame," she said. "So I think everybody in the state of Utah needs to be very clear about what’s going on here. It might sound good to say 'We want to improve voter confidence, we’re just looking.' I’m all for that. That’s not the endgame."

Polling shows voters have overwhelming confidence in Utah's election system. The Lt. Governor defended Utah's election clerks and state officials whom she said have worked hard to ensure fair elections and that eligible voters have access to the ballot. She also pushed back on efforts to roll back Utah's popular vote-by-mail, electronic voting machines and other voter-friendly measures.

"We will not, under my watch... be going backward," Lt. Gov. Henderson said. "We’re not going to make our wonderful election system in place, that was deliberately put in place by the legislature, we’re not going to go from that to something that looks like post-Reconstruction Era restrictions on voting rights."

Rep. Schultz met with Lt. Gov. Henderson in her office on Wednesday and spoke with FOX 13 afterward.

"She shared her concerns and I respect our Lt. Governor, I think she’s doing a great job. We had a great conversation," he said. "We really did. I think we’ll work together to make sure that a good audit is performed that restores trust in our democracy with our citizens of our state."

There is no timeline for the audit to be completed by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Auditor General. When it is completed, it will be presented to the Legislative Audit Subcommittee. The office previously conducted an audit of elections in 2019 and found no significant issues.

"I think it’s important to give people security that it’s being handled in an appropriate manner. I believe our county election offices are doing a great job, certainly our Lt. Governor's Office I think is doing a great job," Rep. Schultz said. "I truly hope it will come back showing everything’s in good shape and I believe it will."

Asked if nothing is found, will he accept the results of the audit, Rep. Schultz replied: "Yeah, absolutely."