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Stewart: You have to have people believe in elections

Written by Derek Monson

August 5, 2022

If people lose confidence in elections, “you have lost the foundation … that’s necessary for a government and society to survive,” Rep. Chris Stewart said at a Sutherland Institute Congressional Series event this week.

Whatever your opinion might be on votes that Stewart has taken regarding elections, his logic on this point is undeniable.

Fortunately, Utahns retain high trust in elections in the state. A recent poll of registered voters in Utah reported that 81% are confident that local government officials will conduct a fair and accurate election in 2022. This is consistent with a different poll from 2021, noted in a 2022 Sutherland publication about the benefits and risks of ranked-choice voting (RCV), reporting that 88% of Utah voters were confident that the current municipal election process produces fair election outcomes.

Why do Utahns retain high trust in voting and elections?

As noted in Sutherland’s analysis of RCV, one reason for high confidence in elections and voting in Utah may be the “common and familiar” means of casting a ballot in the state. Utah, unlike many other states, had been using vote by mail (VBM) as the primary voting method for several election cycles prior to the pandemic, which is when VBM first became the default option for many states. Therefore, Utah did not experience the kind of blowback against VBM that occurred elsewhere in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

Another critical reason for Utah’s continued confidence in elections could be the many layers of election security and protection of election integrity embedded in Utah’s voting systems. As Sutherland noted in our report about the evidence regarding VBM, “there are at least 20 distinct and unique policies, procedures and processes … to protect the integrity and security of Utah’s vote-by-mail system, and Utah election officials continue to propose additional layers of security for VBM and other forms of voting.”

Moreover, the research has found that despite the theoretical possibility of voter fraud under VBM, “such fraud has not materialized.” In Utah specifically:

There has been no evidence of significant levels of voter fraud in Utah’s primarily VBM system since counties widely adopted it in 2016. … Even organizations concerned with election security that tout voter fraud databases have not found significant instances of fraud in Utah. The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database, for instance, lists one 2008 instance of attempted voter fraud in Utah. The attempted fraud was in voter registration rather than voting by mail.

This conclusion has been reaffirmed by the state offices and officials that oversee Utah’s elections. Last year Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (Utah’s previous state elections administrator) and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson (Utah’s current state elections administrator) issued a statement noting that they “recognize some voters have legitimate questions about our elections and we invite all citizens to be involved in our local elections to see the process first-hand. But make no mistake: There is absolutely no evidence of election fraud in Utah.”

Conclusion

Whether Utahns’ high level of trust in voting and elections has more to do with familiarity with how they vote, the many levels of election security currently in place, or the lack of verified, widespread voter fraud in Utah elections, it is true that public confidence in elections is a foundation of functional representative government. Our democracy hinges on people believing that they have a voice, that their vote matters, and that their votes are being counting fairly and accurately.

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