KSL Investigation examines more than a decade of alleged election crime in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY – "You're charged in this case with fraudulent voter registration," a Utah judge told a man appearing remotely during a Grand County court hearing Monday morning.

If convicted, the man could face up to a year in jail, Seventh District Judge Don Torgerson said.

The case is one of three filed by Grand County prosecutors this year, accusing men with Colorado addresses of registering to vote in Utah using the addresses of vacant plots of land.

However, within minutes, the charge in question was dropped Monday. Grand County Attorney Stephen Stocks told the judge the man had provided evidence he had plans to build a residence on the land at the time that he registered to vote.

"Once the housing process fell through," the man explained, "no further effort was made."

No vote was cast, and the case is now dismissed. The cases against the other two men are still pending.

The KSL Investigators learned about the cases after requesting records from the Utah's statewide court system to examine every alleged violation of the state's election code prosecuted since July 2012, through end of May this year.

In the nearly 12-year time period, the data shows there have been a total of 32 cases — containing a total of 58 charges — filed. In some years, no cases were filed. While this year, there's been a high of 12.

Nearly half of those cases — five —are connected to what the Utah Attorney General's Office calls a scheme to submit fraudulent signatures in candidate nomination petitions in Utah's 2nd District.

"That's an area that we've seen a significant rise in those attempts," said Utah Director of Elections Ryan Cowley, "and when we do catch that, we do turn that over. We are prosecuting that."

KSL Investigation examines more than a decade of alleged election crime in Utah
Photo: KSL-TV

Another case involves a Cache County election worker accused of forging a document. Other alleged crimes under prosecution in Utah include the removal or destruction of campaign signs, and one man is accused of voting his deceased wife's ballot.

In the last nearly 12 years, just one man was charged with "false impersonation — double voting" after the 2020 General Election. He previously told the KSL Investigators that it was his first election as a voter and he misunderstood that provisional ballots were actual ballots, and voted again in person on Election Day. The county clerk caught the duplicate ballot. He was offered a diversion agreement, and the case was dismissed after he paid a $50 fine.

Cowley said the most common instances of fraud are people signing ballots that aren't their own. Even with permission or as a favor, he stressed that doing so is illegal.

"I think catching these instances of fraud, it is important, and I think does give us further confidence that the processes we have in place are working," he said, noting the state's robust signature verification process.

Cowley said Utah has never experienced voter fraud significant enough to sway the results of an election.

And there's little to be gained by trying to game the system, said Josh McCrain, an assistant political science professor at the University of Utah.

"You're not going to affect the outcome of the election and you're going to get caught," he said. "So in that sense, the risk/reward makes no sense."

That's why, he says, we don't see widespread voter fraud in America.

"There's very little to zero empirical evidence that there's anything like voter fraud in U.S. elections," McCrain said.

Still, when it comes to whether Utah candidates will accept the results of Tuesday's Republican primary election, not everyone is in agreement.

"As far as whether I will accept the results of the election, I will say this," gubernatorial candidate Phil Lyman told reporters earlier this month, "I will be checking the results of the election."

In response to the same question, Gov. Spencer Cox said, "I assure you, I will accept the result of this election. I will accept the results of federal elections. I accepted the results of the elections four years ago and nothing's changed."

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Utah electionsKSL InvestigatesUtahPolitics
Daniella Rivera
Daniella Rivera joined the KSL team in September 2021. She’s an investigative journalist with a passion for serving the public through seeking and reporting truth.


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