Utah

Articles about voting issues in Utah.

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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.” Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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.” Read More

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. Read More

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.” Read More

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.” Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

Utah: Blockchain-encrypted mobile voting comes to Utah | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

Overseas voters from Utah County, Utah, have the option to cast ballots in local elections this year via a mobile app that uses blockchain encryption to transmit votes back to officials. Utah County plans to offer active-duty military and their dependents, as well as other expats, the ability to participate in upcoming elections using Voatz, the same app that has been tested in recent elections in West Virginia and Denver. Amelia Powers Gardner, Utah County’s recently elected clerk and auditor, said she was interested in testing out the technology shortly after taking office in January and encountering the dilapidated state of the county’s elections infrastructure. “I came into a county that hadn’t had any updates in the election department since 2005 and had no updates in the software or process for a decade,” Gardner told StateScoop. “My number one priority was to get elections up to speed. We started looking for any way to do that.” Read More

Utah: Utah County pilot project will let LDS missionaries and overseas military vote using their phones | Taylor Stevens/The Salt Lake Tribune

Religious missionaries and active-duty military personnel will get to vote using their smartphones — some already have — as part of a pilot project during this year’s election for municipal offices in Utah County. Around 58 voters will be able take advantage of the program in the primary, estimates Utah County Clerk Amelia Powers. It’s an innovation she and other leaders hope will make it easier for overseas voters and for the state’s second-largest county to process their ballots. “It’s not a ton [of people] but it is enough that it helps with efficiency and manpower,” Powers said. “Even one voter overseas deserves to be able to cast their ballot anonymously and safely.” Members of the military and others living abroad have traditionally had to rely on absentee paper ballots. Now, eligible voters will be able to opt in to vote electronically when filling out their absentee ballot request and can cast their ballots through the Voatz app after completing their identity authentication. Read More

Utah: Election officials working to thwart cyberattacks like those detailed in Mueller report | Deseret News

While questions continue to resonate after last week’s release of the Mueller report, one of the few undisputed conclusions in the epic document was that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 U.S. elections “in sweeping and systematic fashion.” And special counsel Robert Mueller’s team unveiled new allegations about how Russian intelligence group GRU targeted the country’s election apparatus — even down to the level of county election offices — in an attempt to disrupt and manipulate outcomes. Techniques employed by those state actors underscored what continues to be the most vulnerable component of any cybersecurity system — human operators. Utah election officials say the impacts of those intrusion attempts, on their radars long before the Mueller report became public, have elevated the work and money that is going into keeping the state’s own election process free from bad actors. And the process is one that has no end in sight. Read More

Utah: Independent redistricting supporters bracing for challenge | Associated Press

Supporters of a push to create an independent redistricting commission in Utah are steeling themselves for a potential challenge to the ballot initiative that voters narrowly passed into law last year. Leaders of the effort aimed at combatting gerrymandering say they’re staying vigilant amid talk of a possible lawsuit to challenge the voter-approved law, the Deseret News reports. “We’re going to be vigilant. We’re going to be present. And we’re prepared through either a campaign or legal means to defend that,” said Jeff Wright, a Republican who co-chairs the group behind Proposition 4. Read More

Utah: U.S. Supreme Court orders state of Utah to respond to GOP lawsuit challenging election law | The Salt Lake Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the state of Utah to respond to an appeal by the Utah Republican Party that seeks to overturn a law allowing candidates to qualify for the ballot by collecting signatures and/or by using the caucus-convention system. The party says the court’s request shows it is taking serious interest in the case and in the argument that the state should not be able to tell the private organization how to select its nominees. The state last month filed a waiver saying it did not plan to respond to the GOP’s petition asking the high court to hear the case unless requested to do so by justices. On Tuesday, the court did just that. Read More

Utah: Trailing in tight election, Republican Rep. Mia Love sues to stop vote count in Utah | USA Today

Republican U.S. Rep. Mia Love sued Wednesday to halt vote counting in the Utah race where she is trailing her Democratic challenger by a razor-thin margin, saying her campaign must be allowed to issue challenges if they dispute the validity of mail-in ballots. In a contest where “every single vote is crucial,” the Love campaign claimed poll-watchers have seen a few cases where voter signatures on ballots accepted by election workers did not appear to match those on file in Democratic-leaning Salt Lake County. County attorneys pushed back in court documents, arguing state law gives the campaign no right to interrupt the vote count, and letting the campaign question signatures could violate voters’ rights by revealing who they cast their ballots for. Democratic challenger Ben McAdams, meanwhile, said the lawsuit “smacks of desperation,” and elections officials, not candidates, should decide what votes should count. Read More

Utah: Rep. Mia Love sues to halt vote count in Salt Lake County | The Washington Post

Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) is filing a lawsuit against the Salt Lake County Clerk in a bid to stop the counting of votes until her campaign is allowed to challenge whether signatures on ballot envelopes match those on file, a move that Love’s Democratic opponent said Wednesday “smacks of desperation.” As of Wednesday evening, Love was trailing Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) by 873 votes, or 0.36 percentage point, in the race for Utah’s 4th Congressional District. That margin is narrower than the 6,700 votes by which McAdams was leading Nov. 8. Utah law allows candidates to request a recount when the margin of victory is 0.25 percentage point or less. In the lawsuit, news of which was first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, Love’s campaign argues that the Salt Lake County clerk has allowed poll monitors to observe the ballot-counting process but has denied them the ability to challenge signatures on ballot envelopes. Voting by mail is popular in Utah. In the state’s primary elections earlier this year, 90 percent of ballots were cast by mail. Read More

Utah: Navajos could tip balance after voting-rights battle | Associated Press

Tammie Nakai lives under a vista of red-rock spires and purple sunrise sky that offers arguably some of the United States’ most breathtaking views. But her home lacks what most of the country considers basic necessities: electric lines and running water. “It’s been that way my whole life, almost 31 years,” she said at the jewelry stand she and her husband run with pride in Monument Valley, a rural community near the Utah-Arizona border where tourists stand in the highway to re-create a famous running scene from “Forest Gump.” As she decides how she’ll cast her ballot, Navajo voters like Nakai could tip the balance of power in their county on Nov. 6. It’s the first general election since a federal judge decided racially gerrymandered districts illegally minimized the voices of Navajo voters who make a slim majority of San Juan County’s population. The county overlaps with the Navajo Nation, where people face huge disparities in health, education and economics. About 40 percent lack running water in their homes. Read More