Guest opinion: Election deniers are opportunists
In many states, the focus on voter security has ironically led to laws making it harder to vote. We’ve been lucky so far in Utah – our Governor’s Office, the State Legislature, elections administrators and most County Commissioners have shown little patience for irrational claims of rigged elections. Our voting laws and norms are set with the public good in mind
Yet a loosely aligned group of self-appointed zealots determined to chip away at Utah’s wildly popular mail in voting system and simultaneously pry into voters’ personal data, has received tactic support from Salt Lake County GOP Chair Chris Null and out-right cover from Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee.
A Salt Lake Tribune story released in late August exposed Lee’s pressure campaign to grant access of highly detailed data about the 2022 primary election to an unelected, self-employed statistician named Cindy Butler with close ties to the disgraced “MyPillow guy” Mike Lindell and election denier David Clement who consistently calls for public executions of election fraud “traitors.”
Lee’s push to acquire voter tabulation information began shortly after the June primaries. According to Utah Elections Officials, the secrecy of the ballot is guaranteed in the state constitution and statutes, so the information Lee is seeking which would pinpoint specific individual’s votes, makes it illegal to release.
Still, based on pure speculation and despite a closed-door discussion questioning legality, Lee continued to pressure the other commissioners to give access to secured voting data to Butler. Butler is not a government employee, does not have a security clearance of any kind, and is not a responsible custodian of public records.
According to the Daily Herald and subsequent reporting by the Tribune, the decision was tabled on July 17, yet a few weeks later Lee was at it again and. based on nothing, the commissioners agreed to solicit proposals from independent statisticians to see how much an independent analysis of the election results might cost – Butler was present at the meeting.
This has become an all too familiar theme in election news, but if not for the integrity of Utah County Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner who was alarmed by Butler’s association with extremists, the commissioners would have already authorized access of confidential election data to someone who openly shows disdain for a system designed to protect information.
This isn’t the first time Lee has used ambiguous claims to attempt to violate secure voting laws. In a February meeting, Lee partnered with self-proclaimed election data analyst Jeff O’Donnell whose messaging was so vile that the presentation was shut down.
The Daily Herald ran a post-primary elections article in July quoting Provo-resident Sylvia Andrew. She was suspicious of voting machines, she admitted, because her candidates didn’t win. “I just can’t wrap my mind around it. It doesn’t make sense,” she said.
It should be so patently obvious that voting machines are not personal, that we should never have to discuss this absurd notion of election fraud again. Election deniers seem to believe in nothing beyond the next opportunity – they’re not ideological. Their basic lack of commitment to the foundations of our democracy should be so abhorrent to the public that we can no longer choose to avert our eyes.
Kathy Adams was the dance writer at the Salt Lake Tribune (2002-2019) and has written about dance for Salt Lake Magazine, Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine and more.