A former Utah county clerk is accused of shredding and mishandling 2020 and 2022 ballots | Mead Gruver/Associated Press

Former Juab County Clerk/Auditor Alaina Lofgran in Utah is facing charges for allegedly mishandling and shredding ballots from both the 2020 and 2022 elections, involving approximately 5,000 voters. It is alleged that she violated the law by allowing ballots to be shredded after the 2022 election when they should have been preserved for at least 22 months for potential recounts. Additionally, Lofgran is accused of improperly storing 2020 election ballots in an accessible basement storage room, contrary to state law which mandates secure storage. The charges include three felonies and other counts related to the neglect of duty, destruction of ballots, and misconduct. The allegations do not imply a political motive, but rather a violation of election law. Read Article

Utah: Elections audits and restrictions for changing parties. Here’s how voting will change. | Bryan Schott/The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah lawmakers introduced 36 bills dealing with elections during the 2023 legislative session, passing 13. Additionally, there were seven proposed amendments to the Utah Constitution, with three that will make it to the 2024 ballot. Most of the election-related bills approved by lawmakers are administrative. For example, HB37 from Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, standardizes signature verification procedures for ballots and how to contact voters when a problem with their signature needs rectifying. Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, pushed SB63, which changes the conditions under which political parties can replace candidates on the ballot. Previously, candidates could only be replaced if they died, were disqualified or resigned due to a physical or mental disability. The change was prompted by the controversy surrounding former Rep. Joel Ferry remaining on the ballot after he resigned from the Legislature and was appointed to head up the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

Full Article: Utah lawmakers passed more than a dozen elections laws. Here’s how voting will change.

Utah lawmakers adopt election reforms suggested by recent audit | Bridger Beal-Cvetko/Deseret News

The Utah Legislature took recommendations from a recent election audit to heart last week, passing a bill to implement several suggestions to improve election security and transparency. Although a legislative audit of Utah’s election system found no instances of widespread voter fraud, it noted small discrepancies in the number of ballots cast and the number of votes recorded in some counties. As a result, the auditors recommended the state adopt a public reconciliation of ballots, which is one of the things HB448 would accomplish.

Full Article: What Utah election reforms were suggested by recent audit? – Deseret News

Utah legislature considers requiring performance audit | Katie McKellar/Deseret News

It’s not an Arizona-style, so-called “forensic” audit that some far right Republicans were calling for in 2021, but Utah lawmakers are a step closer to requiring a “comprehensive performance” audit of Utah’s elections every other year. The Utah House on Friday voted unanimously to approve HB269, a bill that would require the Office of the Legislative Auditor General to conduct a biennial audit of elections in even-numbered years. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. “We have a pretty good system here in Utah,” the bill’s sponsor, House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, said, noting the last legislative audit conducted of the 2022 election showed just that. In that audit, legislative auditors found no evidence of fraud and only small discrepancies in the number of ballots cast and the number of votes counted in some counties. “But there’s always room for improvement,” he added, “and it’s always important that we keep our eye on the ball and strive for perfection.”

Full Article: Election audit: Utah legislature considers requiring performance audit – Deseret News

Utah Lawmakers want to audit elections, but not to examine whether the results are accurate | Bryan Schott/The Salt Lake Tribune

The House Government Operations Committee unanimously approved HB269 on Tuesday afternoon, which mandates a performance audit of Utah’s elections in even-numbered years. Legislative auditors are tasked to review almost every aspect of the primary and general elections, from candidate selection to counting ballots. The bill from House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, springboards from a year-long probe of Utah’s elections instigated by Schultz in late 2021. He explained he was motivated not by unfounded fraud claims but by a desire to build confidence in Utah’s elections. … Absent from the bill is a mechanism for verifying the accuracy of election results. State law requires county clerks to conduct a post-election audit to determine whether vote-counting machines are operating correctly. Legislative auditors recommended a pilot program to audit a certain percentage of ballots after the election to help ensure the results are accurate.

Full Article: Lawmakers want to audit Utah’s elections, but not to examine whether the results are accurate

Utah: No evidence of fraud in midterm elections, but auditors say there‘s room to improve elections systems | Bryan Schott/Salt Lake Tribune

A deep dive into Utah’s vote-by-mail system found no evidence of fraud, widespread errors or systematic problems during the 2022 midterm elections. Additionally, legislative auditors found that the safeguards already in place are sufficient to thwart any attempts to undermine election integrity. Still, independent investigators pointed out several areas that are in need of improvement. Legislative leaders ordered the audit last December in the wake of Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud following his 2020 election loss. Utah House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, argued the look would dispel any doubts about Utah’s voting system. Auditors observed the 2022 primary election in all 29 of Utah’s counties. They found that Utah’s decentralized system, where individual counties oversee elections, creates a firewall that makes it extremely difficult to compromise a statewide or national election. The final report also refuted one of the more outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding elections. Auditors examined election equipment in several counties and found no evidence that they are connected to the internet.

Full Article: Election audit: No fraud in Utah’s midterm, but room for improvement

Utah: Judge tosses lawsuit from election conspiracy duo seeking 2020 voting data | Bryan Schott/Salt Lake Tribune

A judge tossed a lawsuit from a pair of Utah election deniers seeking detailed voting data from the 2020 election. Jen Orten and Sophie Anderson, known online as “The Two Red Pills,” filed suit against Utah, Juab and Millard counties, seeking voting machine data from the 2020 elections. In their lawsuit, Orten and Anderson asked for the “cast vote record” in those counties from the 2020 election, which is a record of when ballots from the election were counted by machine and logged into the system. The duo claimed since Utah law does not explicitly protect those records, they should be made available. Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson’s office filed a motion to dismiss in the suit, claiming Utah’s public records laws don’t apply because the data is an “election record,” which is exempted from GRAMA (the Government Records and Management Act). Utah law says all election materials must be sealed for 22 months after the results are certified and destroyed. Additionally, her office was skeptical about why the two were asking for the data. “Plaintiffs effectively want to contest the 2020 and 2021 elections results and thereby cast doubt on county and state administration of elections,” Henderson’s motion reads.

Full Article: Judge tosses lawsuit from Utah election conspiracy duo seeking 2020 voting data

Utah ballot records lawsuit tossed | Matt Ward/Millard County Chronicle Progress

A Fourth District Court judge dismissed a civil lawsuit last week filed by two “moms” seeking to make public normally secure voting records as part of a wide-ranging effort to prove various election fraud claims. Jennifer Orten, of Draper, and Sophie Anderson, of Salt Lake City, brought the lawsuit after multiple records requests across various Utah counties were denied, including here in Millard County. The women’s efforts are best described as Utah’s version of the “big lie”—a notion spread by ultra-right radicals arguing that widespread fraud affected the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Not a thimble’s worth of solid evidence has emerged in 22 months since the 2020 election to support such claims, despite dozens of lawsuits and ballot audits across multiple states. Judge Derek Pullan pulled the plug on the women’s lawsuit—they sued Utah, Juab and Millard counties in March—after hearing arguments during a motion to dismiss hearing Wednesday. The hearing was spurred by Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson’s office, which filed a motion to dismiss in May. The lieutenant governor is the state’s top election officer.

Full Article: Ballot records lawsuit tossed – Millard County Chronicle Progress

Utah bill to end default mail-in voting fails in raucous hearing | Bridger Beal-Cvetko/Deseret News

A bill that would have returned Utah to in-person voting by default failed to advance from committee on Wednesday after opponents argued that it could disenfranchise voters and had few discernible security benefits. HB371, sponsored by Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, was heard in the House Government Operations Committee before an at times rambunctious crowd of supporters who filled five separate overflow rooms. Committee vice chairman Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, had to repeatedly remind them to refrain from outbursts. Lyman said his bill was a necessary step to protect Utah elections from fraud and reinstate voter faith in elections. From a security standpoint, “our elections are pretty wide open,” he said — a claim that lacks evidence and Utah election officials contest. Although the bill would require voters to specifically request an absentee ballot be mailed to them, Lyman said the key provision in the bill was one that would require an independent audit after each election. He falsely claimed that precincts in Salt Lake and San Juan counties saw voter turnout as high as 200-300% in recent years and said that matching voter rolls to mail-in ballots “becomes really problematic.” “In essence, what we’re doing … is we’re blanketing communities with ballots assuming that the people that we’re sending them to are legitimate on the voter rolls, whether they requested it or not,” he said.

Full Article: It’s time to ‘get down to what’s real’: Utah bill to end default mail-in voting fails in raucous hearing | KSL.com

Utah House committee rejects baseless claims of election fraud; soundly defeats bill to end universal vote by mail | Bryan Schott/Salt Lake Tribune

The “stop the steal” conspiracy theory ran into reality as a bill to end Utah’s universal mail-in balloting went down in flames during a House committee meeting on Wednesday evening. Hundreds of Utahns who championed former President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent packed into several rooms at the Capitol in support of HB371 from Rep. Phil Lyman. They left disappointed as the committee voted 7-3 to kill Lyman’s bill. Lyman’s massive bill, more than 2,000 lines, was a radical overhaul of Utah’s elections and contained several ideas that have popped up in the wake of Trump’s 2020 loss. Utah’s universal mail-in balloting would be replaced with same-day, in-person voting counted by hand. Most absentee balloting would be eliminated except under certain circumstances. Registering to vote would be more difficult. There is also a provision for an independent audit of the election results. Lyman said he was prompted to push for the election overhaul because people don’t trust election results. “Every single vote should count,” Lyman said. “In Utah, we have a crisis of confidence in our elections.” Lyman kept returning to his belief that an outside audit is crucial to restoring the lost election confidence. Legislative leaders authorized an audit of the state’s election systems in December, which removed some of the urgency behind Lyman’s push. Much of the rationale behind arguments for overhauling Utah’s elections was flimsy and relied on anecdotes.

Full Article: Utah House committee rejects baseless claims of election fraud; soundly defeats bill to end universal vote by mail

Utah Lt. Gov. calls election integrity claims ‘destructive’ | Lindsay Whitehurst/Associated Press

The leader who oversees Utah elections said Wednesday that new efforts questioning the integrity of the state’s voting system are “destructive” and “very concerning.” The comments from Republican Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson come after a panel of majority-GOP lawmakers approved an audit into the election system. There are also separate efforts to get a forensic audit on the ballot and her office has gotten a report about people knocking on doors asking residents about their votes. Former President Donald Trump handily won the state in 2020. “From all of the things that I have seen, the endgame here is to fundamentally destroy the voting system we have here in the state of Utah,” she told The Associated Press. “Where there are challenges and problems, let’s work together to solve them and overcome them. But let’s not deliberately spread lies, falsehoods, misinformation and do it in a way that ensures that certain people don’t have access to the ballot. My question to those elected officials is, why are you afraid to let people vote?” The questions in conservative Utah echo those in states like Arizona, where an outside firm was hired to conduct a review after Trump falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen. That review, though described by experts described as riddled with errors, bias and flawed methodology, confirmed Democrat Joe Biden’s win in the state. In October, some 200 people rallied at the Capitol building and packed a legislative meeting room calling for a similar review in Utah. The audit approved Tuesday in Utah, by contrast, will be carried out by nonpartisan legislative auditors.

Full Article: Utah Lt. Gov. calls election integrity claims ‘destructive’ | AP News

Editorial: No proof? No problem. The right wing is trying to dismantle Utah’s top-in-the-U. S. election system | Robert Gehrke/Salt Lake Tribune

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Rep. Steve Christiansen’s conspiracy peddling presentation to his fellow legislators Wednesday was that he did the entire thing as a space alien. Of course, I can’t PROVE he’s an extraterrestrial from outer space. But a lot of questions have been raised and some people believe so. I can’t really prove how many people believe it. There’s this poll, but you can’t see it, and it is true that this particular pollster’s reputation is abysmal. That is the standard of proof that Christiansen relies on when making his unfounded claims that Utah’s election was rife with fraud and needs a full forensic audit. “I believe there was fraud in the 2020 election. I can’t prove it, which is why we need to have an audit,” he said Wednesday. Christiansen’s tales are beyond fiction. They’re beyond fantasies. They are outright lies.

Full Article: No proof? No problem. The right wing is trying to dismantle Utah’s top-in-the-U. S. election system, Robert Gehrke writes

Utah Senator Mike Lee stands up for the right of states to suppress minority voting rights | Raymond A. Hult/The Salt Lake Tribune

With the House having recently passed an historic election reform bill (HR1), Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s immediate response was “Everything about this bill is rotten to the core. It was written and held by the devil himself.” More recently, after Georgia Republican legislators passed a restrictive voter election law that Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola criticized as a blatantly suppressing the minority vote, Lee ranted, “I find that kind of intrusion unseemly and inappropriate. It’s wildly partisan what they’re doing. I think they should both issue an apology to the voters of Georgia.” Reviewing some of the provisions of the Georgia bill, I wondered what he found so unseemly, inappropriate and requiring an apology. It limits the number of drop boxes in every county as well as the hours they can be open. It prohibits automatically sending by-mail ballot applications to registered voters and shortens the period such requests can be made. It tightens ID requirement for casting an absentee ballot. It prohibits anyone from giving food or drink to voters waiting in line at a polling place. Everything contrary to voting in Utah and obviously intended to make it harder for minorities to cast their votes. Reviewing the main elements of HR1, I wanted to see exactly what may have caused that visceral rejection by Lee. Historically, what many consider to be one of the most profoundly significant legislative achievements in American history, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965. It enforced voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, most significantly attempting to ensure the right to vote by Black Americans.

Source: Mike Lee stands up for the right of states to suppress minority voting rights.

What Utah officials told Pennsylvania about holding elections by mail | Dennis Romboy/Deseret News

Pennsylvania found itself at the center of controversy during the 2020 election. An onslaught of mail-in ballots prompted by a new law being tested for the first time amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed the state’s election officials, who were prohibited from counting the ballots before Election Day. President Donald Trump took direct aim at the Keystone State as his lead eroded and Joe Biden ultimately emerged as the winner by 81,000 votes, or about 1%. Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud led to lawsuits that Pennsylvania courts and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected. As a result, the Pennsylvania Senate created the bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform. The nine-member panel is anticipated to make recommendations to lawmakers on how to improve the state’s election process. “I don’t think it’s any secret that the issues of the 2020 election have dominated the headlines, and this committee was formed to examine how we can do better,” said Pennsylvania state Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., a Republican who heads the committee.

Full Article: What Utah officials told Pennsylvania about holding elections by mail – Deseret News

Utah lawmaker hopes to build voter trust with ballot-tracking system | Hannah Petersen/Deseret News

Amid national discussion about alleged voting irregularities in the presidential race, a Utah lawmaker wants to assure confidence in the election process by creating a system to track voters’ ballots. Rep. Dan Johnson, R-Logan, said the mistrust of mail-in voting being vocalized in many parts of the country led him to sponsor HB70 for the upcoming legislative session to require a ballot tracking system. The system would be optional for registered voters to sign up for, but would provide electronic notifications via email or text that their ballot was received and counted. “I think that really matters to people,” Johnson said, “My concern is that if you guys don’t have trust in voting in a democracy, that can be pretty problematic.” Utah voters can already track their ballots by visiting votesearch.utah.gov once they’ve mailed it in. Johnson wants to give all registered voters the choice to streamline the process of verifying mail-in voting with auto-alerts when their ballots arrive at their county’s ballot center. “It’s just one more way to have that notification and have it quicker and for people to have confidence in the fact that my ballot got to the place where it was supposed to get and those who are in charge, at that point, have actually run the ballot and it’s been properly counted,” Johnson said. Justin Lee, the state’s director of elections, said developing the system could be done easily by obtaining the software capabilities from third-party vendors.

Full Article: Utah lawmaker hopes to build voter trust with ballot-tracking system – Deseret News

Utah: Cast your next vote by phone? Lawmakers approve pilot proposal | Art Raymond/Deseret News

Even as the tumult surrounding 2020 election processes and results continues, Utah lawmakers are looking ahead to potential new ways to help residents easily and securely engage their civic voting duties. An interim legislative committee this week advanced a proposal from Rep. Mike Winder aiming to expand opportunities for Utah cities interested in testing new, internet-based systems that allow voters to cast their ballots via smartphone. … Committee member Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, said she was concerned about public reports from cybersecurity experts critical of internet-based voting systems and, in particular, the Voatz system that’s been in use by Utah County. “There have been a host of articles highlighting the concerns with electronic voting and even specific critiques of the Voatz app that Utah County has been using,” Harrison said. “MIT came out with a research paper … also Homeland Security itself had concerns. There’s too many cybertechnology experts that say it’s impossible to secure these devices and these apps and that the technology is just not where it needs to be to expand these projects.”

Full Article: Cast your next vote by phone? Utah lawmakers approve pilot proposal – Deseret News

Utah: ‘No reason to delay’ election, Utah official says in response to Trump | Lisa Riley Roche/Deseret News

President Donald Trump’s tweet Thursday suggesting the November election be delayed because the move many states are making to voting by mail due to COVID-19 means the results would be “fraudulent” comes during Utah’s eighth year of holding by-mail elections. But Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, whose office oversees elections in Utah, tweeted there’s no need to put off the vote. And other Utah politicians, including Sen. Mitt Romney, maintain the voting will be done as scheduled. “While no system is perfect, Utah is a model of showing vote-by-mail can be successful and secure. We are happy to advise and assist other states (and we have) to make sure there is no reason to delay a general election,” Cox tweeted. The lieutenant governor, who won the state’s June 30 GOP gubernatorial primary, told the Deseret News that when the president tweeted, his office was in the middle of a training exercise run by national security officials to learn how to detect attempts at election interference, such as misinformation campaigns by a foreign government.

Utah: ‘No reason to delay’ election, Utah official says in response to Trump | Lisa Riley Roche/Deseret News

President Donald Trump’s tweet Thursday suggesting the November election be delayed because the move many states are making to voting by mail due to COVID-19 means the results would be “fraudulent” comes during Utah’s eighth year of holding by-mail elections. But Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, whose office oversees elections in Utah, tweeted there’s no need to put off the vote. And other Utah politicians, including Sen. Mitt Romney, maintain the voting will be done as scheduled. “While no system is perfect, Utah is a model of showing vote-by-mail can be successful and secure. We are happy to advise and assist other states (and we have) to make sure there is no reason to delay a general election,” Cox tweeted. The lieutenant governor, who won the state’s June 30 GOP gubernatorial primary, told the Deseret News that when the president tweeted, his office was in the middle of a training exercise run by national security officials to learn how to detect attempts at election interference, such as misinformation campaigns by a foreign government.

Utah: Elections director outlines voting changes, prepares for primary | Sahalie Donaldson/Deseret News

With laws locked in place altering voting practices to account for COVID-19, Utah’s upcoming June 30 primary election will be unlike any that has preceded it. Justin Lee, the state’s director of elections, swiftly walked through the changes with Utah lawmakers Tuesday afternoon during a meeting of the Legislature’s Government Operations Interim Committee. Discussion on the changes was brief, and Lee urged lawmakers and their constituents to remember that patience, while difficult, is going to be key working forward. “Everyone is going to need to be very patient with election results,” Lee said. “They are going to be a little bit slower, they are going to be a little bit longer, and in close races as we’ve seen in the past, we may not have final results or even definitive breaks between candidates for a couple of weeks after Election Day.” The delay is connected to a couple of changes largely implemented through laws passed during the April special session in HB3006.

Utah: Utah County Clerk Received Campaign Donation from Investor In Voting App The County Now Uses | Sonja Hutson/KUER

Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner received a $1,500 campaign donation from an investor in the blockchain voting app Voatz in 2018, roughly 16 months before the county first used the app in its elections. Utah County started using Voatz for a primary municipal election in August 2019, so military and overseas voters could cast their ballots through an app. The county expanded the pilot program in November 2019 to allow voters with disabilities to use it. In her role, Powers Gardner supervises the county’s elections. When she first ran for the position in 2018, Powers received a campaign contribution from Overstock.com CEO Jonathan Johnson in early April. Johnson is also the president of Medici Ventures, which is a major investor in Voatz. In January 2018, the app announced it had raised $2.2 million in a round of seed funding led by Medici Ventures.

Utah: Pushing back against Trump, Romney says 90% of ‘very Republican’ Utah votes by mail | Summer Lin/McClatchy

Senator Mitt Romney broke with President Donald Trump and other GOP leaders who denounced voting by mail, saying it works “very, very well,” media outlets reported. “In my state, I’ll bet 90% of us vote by mail. It works very, very well, and it’s a very Republican state,” Romney told reporters on Wednesday, according to ABC News. Trump has rallied against voting by mail. “They grab thousands of mail-in ballots and they dump it,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, according to Politico. “I’ll tell you what — and I don’t have to tell you, you can look at the statistics — there’s a lot of dishonesty going along with mail-in voting.” Trump doubled down on his comments on Wednesday, saying that it could lead to fraud. “Mail-in ballots are a very dangerous thing. They’re subject to massive fraud,” Trump said, according to NPR. When asked if he’d take away federal funding from states that offer mail voting, he said: “We’ll let you know if it’s necessary. … I don’t think it’s going to be necessary.”

Utah: Heavily Republican Utah likes voting by mail, but national GOP declares war on it | Lee Davidson/The Salt Lake Tribune

Heavily Republican Utah is one of just five states that for years have voted primarily by mail (the others lean Democratic), and leaders here say it increases turnout by making voting easier. But national GOP leaders denounced the practice Monday as part of a Democratic plot to use coronavirus scares to alter elections in ways that could increase fraud. They vowed to fight voting by mail and other election proposals they dislike with a $20 million legal fund. “A national vote-by-mail system would open the door to a new set of problems, such as potential election fraud,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, the niece of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. “At this time of uncertainty, we need to have faith in our election process.” That comes after President Donald Trump has vigorously attacked voting by mail. “You’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump told Fox News last month.

Utah: Experts agree this year’s election is a big target for hackers, disinformation and foreign interference | Connor Sanders/The Salt Lake Tribune

As the 2020 election nears, the need to strengthen cybersecurity and dispel misinformation grows. “You have to assume you will be targeted by disinformation and misinformation,” said Adam Clayton Powell III, executive director of the Election Cybersecurity Initiative. “Elections and campaigns are too easy of a target for adversaries both foreign and domestic.” Powell and Clifford Neuman, director of USC’s Center for Computer Systems Security, outlined during an online conference Tuesday how hackers and foreign adversaries can not only influence elections through infiltrating the voting system, but also through spreading false information. Neuman mentioned that the first, but rarest, way an election can be compromised is through actual manipulation of the vote count on Election Day. Utah’s transition to mail-in voting not only makes it well-equipped to handle voting in a COVID-19 world, it also makes it difficult for hackers to skew an election through an electronic voting apparatus. But the reach of a hacker extends beyond the ballot box. Powell reported that China, Russia and Iran have already begun to spread false reports online, and foreign countries are now echoing each other’s messages by citing another country’s fake reports as a source.

Utah: Hackers, COVID-19 and foreign disinformation create challenges for Utah elections this year | Lee Davidson/The Salt Lake Tribune

Hackers likely will still try to infiltrate government voting databases. Officials worry foreign countries may spread disinformation about elections. And the coronavirus is doing away with in-person voting in Utah’s primary on June 30. So what could go wrong amid all that? Utah officials plan to discuss that in an online public workshop Tuesday. But Justin Lee — state elections director for Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox — says Utah is better prepared to deal with challenges than most states because it has years of experience with voting by mail. With COVID-19, “The big concern is just to maintain appropriate social distancing but still allow everyone their right to vote,” so most states are attempting to vote by mail, often for the first time on a large scale, Lee said. “The good thing for Utah is that 90% of our voters already vote by mail,” he said. “So we’re already in a very good place compared to some of these other states that are scrambling.”

Utah: House OKs Holding Primary Entirely by Mail Amid Coronavirus | Lindsay Whitehurst/Associated Press

In the face of a global pandemic, the Utah House voted to run an upcoming primary election entirely by mail Thursday and temporarily do away with traditional polling places. The proposal now goes to the state Senate ahead of the June 30 primary that will be key in choosing the next governor. A crowded field of candidates, including Republicans Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and former U.S. Russia ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr., are competing for the seat open for the first time in more than a decade. Lawmakers weighed in during their first virtual special session, held remotely to address the coronavirus pandemic that has caused widespread shutdowns around the country to try and halt the spread of the disease. The Legislature is considering proposals on everything from budgets to the balance of power during the meeting that continues Friday. Most of conservative Utah already votes by mail, in contrast with the by-mail voting skepticism from national Republicans like President Donald Trump.

Utah: Cybersecurity experts warn Utah about vulnerability of online voting | Connor Richards/Herald Extra

As election officials throughout the country prepare to hold elections in the midst of a pandemic, dozens of cybersecurity and computer science experts from various universities and institutes are warning about the insecurities of online and blockchain voting. In a letter sent on Thursday to governors and state elections directors, including Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah Elections Director Justin Lee, experts said that “all internet voting systems and technologies are currently inherently insecure” and that “no mobile voting app is sufficiently secure to permit its use.” “Internet voting is not a secure solution for voting in the United States, nor will it be in the foreseeable future,” the letter reads. “We urge you to refrain from allowing the use of any internet or voting app system and consider expanding access to voting by mail and early voting to maintain the security, accuracy, and voter protection essential for American elections in the face of this public health crisis.”

Utah: Lawmaker says Iowa caucuses a cautionary tale for online voting | Art Raymond/Deseret News

Issues in the recent Iowa Democratic caucuses with a smartphone app are a further reminder, according to one Utah lawmaker, that the state should move slowly and deliberately toward any future change to a statewide online voting system.

To that end, Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, is sponsoring a proposal to spend some 20 months on a study to determine what, if any, digital voting system is secure enough to trust with running Utah elections. That proposal, HB292, got unanimous support from the House Government Operations Committee on Wednesday and is now headed to the full body for further consideration. Ahead of the meeting, McKell told the Deseret News the proposed study isn’t due until October 2021 and would have no impact on the upcoming general election, nor the 2021 off-year municipal elections. The goal of the study, McKell said, is to take the necessary time to do a thorough assessment of the potential advantages, and pitfalls, of moving the voting process into the digital realm. “I think we need to slow things down and commit to a thorough review of internet voting,” McKell said. “I think there are a lot of pressures in play to use new technologies and take advantage of efficiencies they can bring. “But we just saw a whole host of problems in Iowa … that are a reminder that we’re just not there yet.”

Utah: Mobile voting system used in Utah County subject of attempted 2018 West Virginia breach | Graham Dudley/KSL

The FBI is investigating an attempted intrusion of the Voatz mobile voting system during West Virginia’s 2018 midterm elections, officials announced last week, throwing a spotlight onto an experimental app that Utah County used for the first time in this year’s primary elections. Mike Stuart, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, said in a statement that there was “no intrusion and the integrity of votes and the election system was not compromised.” Stuart also said that the FBI investigation into the attempt is ongoing and that it’s still not determined whether any federal laws were violated. Voatz is a new technology allowing overseas voters, like missionaries and U.S. military personnel, an alternative to email or traditional mail-in voting, which have long sparked concerns over security and anonymity risks. It’s an app that uses blockchain technology, a sort of public digital ledger, to encrypt and secure votes.

Utah: New threats, new solutions: How Utah’s counties secure elections | Graham Dudley/KSL

Rozan Mitchell would like to clear up one thing: Yes, her office really does look at every signature on returned mail-in ballots and compare them against the signatures on voter registration forms. “People say, ‘Well, you only do a sampling.’ Nope,” Mitchell said, sitting in the Provo headquarters of the Utah County elections office in early September. She is the county’s elections director and, as she’s making clear, she takes that responsibility seriously. “We check the signature on every single one of those ballots that comes through here.” That’s how the county discovers instances where, say, a parent has voted for a missionary serving abroad, or a spouse has voted for someone away on business. “I think people don’t realize the great lengths we go to to do things like that,” Mitchell said. Supervising elections, a function of county clerks and their staff, is a process very much driven by local entities: states, counties and municipalities. The federal government has laws mandating equal access to the ballot box, but it’s up to local governments to decide how to achieve that goal.