Not many things in the world are monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Bank vaults, hospitals, and military installations are the few that come to mind. However, in this Fall’s midterm elections, Utah’s ballot boxes will be as well.
24/7 video surveillance of unattended ballot boxes are among the several measures Utah’s state legislature has approved as a part of H.B. 313 to secure the state of Utah’s elections prior to the impending 2022 midterms.
House Bill 313, passed in the most recent general session, includes a bevy of changes for Utah voters. Voters are now required to provide proof of identity before voting if they did not provide proof of identification when they registered to vote. Utah is one of eight states that are “all-mail”–they conduct all elections by mail. In 2020, 94% of Utah voters voted by mail. Utah is the only Republican-leaning state that allows all elections to be conducted by mail. Because of H.B. 313, many of these voters will now need to submit a copy of their Utah drivers license or identification.
The legislation, primarily released by Republican Rep. Jon Hawkins, also requires a yearly audit of the voter registration database, limits who may access the election equipment, and reiterates requirements that election equipment may never be connected to the internet. The bill would also require the lieutenant governor to develop requirements for Utah election officials regarding the handling and documentation of “custody” for ballots.
Utah’s legislature passed these increased security measures despite voter fraud being an incredibly rare occurrence in Utah. According to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, Utah has only had one case of documented voter fraud—in 2008. Utah has allowed voting by mail since 2004. The most common reason ballots are rejected, in fact, do not come from nefarious parties, but instead, from simple mistakes, such as signature issues or unsigned affidavits. Sources have even found that, often times, fraud in Utah may stem from the parents of Latter-day Saints whose children are away on missions.
Despite the security of Utah’s elections prior to the 2020 election and the staggering popularity of voting by mail, the state has been swept up in election misinformation perpetuated by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 Presidential Election was fraudulent.
Utah’s state legislature considered 35 proposals in 2022’s general session regarding its election practices—including H.B. 371, which would have removed ballot drop boxes and removed voting by mail as Utah’s primary voting method. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Phil Lyman failed in committee. While Rep. Lyman alleged voter fraud when speaking in support of H.B. 371, he was unable to produce any evidence of his allegations.
Utah’s Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Spencer Cox and Deidre Henderson, both Republicans, have repeatedly defended the security of Utah’s elections and denounced allegations to the contrary as “absolute falsehoods [that] run counter to Utah law and the foundation of our constitutional republic.”
County Clerks have expressed frustration with H.B. 313’s new requirements. Sherrie Swenson, Salt Lake County’s Clerk, said that the constant surveillance represented an intrusion of privacy, and the new mandate regarding voter identification left her office scrambling to collect the required information from voters.
The security of Utah’s vote is not the only concern in 2022–election officials said that voters will see armed police officers patrolling election sites in response to a recent increase in political tensions and threats towards election workers.