Lyman and Clawson sue for information on Utah voters who signed candidates' petitions

Utah Rep. Phil Lyman speaks during Utah’s gubernatorial GOP primary debate held at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on June 11.

Utah Rep. Phil Lyman speaks during Utah’s gubernatorial GOP primary debate held at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on June 11. (Isaac Hale, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Phil Lyman and Natalie Clawson sued officials in Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office to try to obtain the signature, names and addresses of voters who signed petitions supporting three different campaigns.

The suit was filed in Utah's 3rd District Court on Wednesday. The Lieutenant Governor's Office declined to comment on active litigation.

Lyman and Clawson got onto the Republican primary ballot for the governor's race after winning at the state GOP convention. They lost to incumbent Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson by around 9 percentage points in the primary election. The suit Lyman and Clawson filed is for the unredacted signature packets of three candidates, which would include voters' names, signatures and addresses.

This legal filing comes after Lyman and Clawson submitted a Government Records Access and Management Act request to the lieutenant governor's office requesting copies of the signature packets for the Cox and Henderson, Brad Wilson and Derek Brown campaigns.

The Cox-Henderson and Wilson campaigns (but not Brown's campaign) used the company Gathering Inc. to collect signatures. In the suit, Lyman and Clawson say they submitted their GRAMA request after learning that there was an investigation in relation to signatures gathered by state Sen. Don Ipson — he used Gathering Inc.

Eric Clarke, Washington County attorney, confirmed to the Deseret News that only the signatures were under investigation, not the company. Previously, he said there was no evidence of a candidate or the company acting inappropriately.

"We believe this action is essential to ensure the integrity of this important process," said Lyman in a press release. He said that because there were not able to obtain the packets from the Lieutenant Governor's Office, they were unable to independently verify the signature packets for Cox's campaign.

Utah voters can keep information private

In response to the GRAMA request, the Lieutenant Governor's Office denied the request citing state law that allows voters to choose to withhold their information from political campaigns and another part of code which states signatures are considered protected information.

The law for candidates' signature gathering packets are different than for referenda and initiatives — it's required that names, voter identification numbers and dates of signatures for referenda and initiatives are statutorily required to be posted on the lieutenant governor's office website. State law does not have that same requirement for candidates' signature gathering packets.

The Lieutenant Governor's Office gave the campaign a couple of options: they could obtain a report listing the signers from the packets one business day after the request or the campaign could view the packets in person after they are redacted sometime by the end of July.

In its email to Clawson, the office said this report could "include the address of each signer not classified as private or withheld."

Lyman and Clawson say in the filing that the office provided a redacted report to another individual and around 40% of the voters' names and information were redacted as private or withheld. Clawson also requested that the Lieutenant Governor's Office recuse itself from the request.

The office did not recuse itself from the request and after Clawson's request was denied, the filing from Lyman and Clawson says she appealed the decision. On July 2, the chief administrative officer for GRAMA appeals affirmed the decision stating that parts of the records Clawson requested were protected and private.

Lyman and Clawson say that because state law allows a government entity to disclose protected records if the interest in releasing them is either equal to or more than the interest in restricting them, the lieutenant governor's office should have released the records.

The suit states Lyman and Clawson are asking that the court say they have the right to look at "the unredacted signature packets and other information sufficient to allow the plaintiffs to independently evaluate, verify, or challenge the signatures allegedly supporting the Cox/Henderson, Brad Wilson, and Derek Brown campaigns."

Lyman and Clawson say the office should be required to disclose these packets "due to the overriding concerns for election transparency and integrity," and say "this is especially true given that Gathering Inc. is under criminal investigation for its work on one campaign, and the Cox/Henderson campaign also used Gathering Inc. to gather signatures and prepare its signature packets."

The Washington County attorney says it is just the signatures of Ipson, not the company, that is under investigation.

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Hanna Seariac

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