GOP Elections Leader in Utah Says Members Trying to 'Fundamentally Destroy the Voting System'

Utah's Republican Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said Wednesday that she sees the audit approved by a panel of majority-Republican lawmakers to evaluate the state's election system as an attempt to "fundamentally destroy the voting system" in the state, according to The Associated Press.

The audit, and recent reports of citizens knocking on doors to ask other residents about their votes in the 2020 election, are "very concerning" to Henderson.

"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?"

Former President Donald Trump won 58 percent of the vote in the state in the 2020 election.

The audit also comes after a similar one was conducted in Arizona, where an outside firm was hired and confirmed President Joe Biden's victory, even though experts said the methodology for conducting the audit was "riddled with errors" and biased toward Trump.

Utah State House Majority Leader Mike Schultz proposed the audit and said he hopes it can restore confidence among voters in the state's election systems who protested in October for an audit to take place, believing the baseless claim repeated often by Trump that the election was stolen and he won, not Biden.

Donald Trump, Utah, Election Audit, Deidre Henderson
A lone man walks to the Utah State Capitol building to protest in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 17, 2021, during a nationwide protest called by anti-government and far-right groups supporting former President Donald Trump and his claim of electoral fraud in the 2020 presidential election. A Republican-led panel has approved an audit of the election systems in the state where Trump won 58 percent of the vote in 2020. George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

There are also separate efforts to get a forensic audit on the ballot.

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 to Arizona's, will be carried out by nonpartisan legislative auditors.

Schultz said his request is separate from the ballot-initiative effort.

"I have full faith in our clerks and lieutenant governor, but I think just doing a normal routine audit is a good thing," he said.

GOP state lawmaker Phil Lyman, who is sponsoring another bill that would implement regular audits, said his concerns go beyond the 2020 election and include funding for electronic systems where voter-registration data in Utah and elsewhere is housed. "I can't imagine someone not wanting to understand what is going on with the election system," he said.

While Henderson said she trusts the legislative auditors and expects them to perform the same kind of checks her team is already making to look for internal improvements, she also stressed there is no evidence of any wrongdoing.

"I am very concerned about any lawmaker who signs on to these notions, that where there is no evidence, and these are baseless allegations and they're deliberately making them in order to undermine public trust and faith in the foundation of our democratic republic," she said. "They're doing it not to solve problems but to score political points. To me, that's reprehensible and that is what I'm concerned about."

The door-knocking complaints, first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, came from southern Utah about people knocking on doors asking detailed questions about how residents voted, who they cast ballots for and who lived in the home. The questioners would not identify themselves or their organization, leaving the homeowners feeling uncomfortable, Henderson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.