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Elections officials say voter fraud not widespread in Utah, still taking steps to prevent it

(Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, File)

SALT LAKE CITY – Just how widespread is voter fraud in the U.S. or in Utah?  Some news agencies say it’s a total myth, while others say it’s far more of a problem than people want to admit.  Either way, state and county leaders say it shouldn’t be happening at all, and they’re taking steps to fight it. 

Yesterday, Utah Elections Director Justin Lee sent a message to everyone saying the information on a U.S. Postal Service postcard was wrong.  It told everyone to request their absentee ballot no later than 15 days before the election.  That’s not necessary in Utah since those ballots are automatically sent to voters.

That was bad information, but it wasn’t intentional.  However, Lee says there are plenty of people out there trying to lie to voters.

Lee says, “There are foreign actors, in particular, who are using social media to send out bad information or to inflame discussions around political issues.”

Some of that bad information includes wrong dates for sending their ballots in.  Others tell people they can’t vote unless them meet certain requirements that aren’t correct. 

But, as far as printing out fake ballots and having them counted in our election goes… Lee says it essentially can’t happen.  They have too many security measures in place.

“The ballots themselves, they’re printed on specific kinds of paper.  There are security features around the envelopes.  So, if somebody were to try and just print one off of their own computer or run down to Kinko’s or something to print them off, we would catch that.  The county clerks would see that something is wrong.”

Lee says Utah is cleaning up its voter rolls to ensure ballots go where they’re supposed to and prevent voter fraud.

“We’re making sure that we’re not sending out ballots to people that don’t live at those addresses, anymore,” Lee says.

“We send each registered voter a ‘Voter Information Card.’  If that card was returned for some reason, the address was a bogus address or whatever, that would immediately flag the system,” according to Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen.

Let’s say a ballot does go to the wrong person.  How do county clerks prevent it from being used when it shouldn’t?  Swensen says that’s where their AGILIS Ballot Sorting System comes into play.  It’s currently doing roughly half of the signature verifications.

She says, “Honestly, signature verification is a very good form of ID.”

If a signature is rejected, at first, it’s then double-checked and triple-checked by workers trained to match the signatures.  If there’s still a problem, the voter is notified and asked to come in to fix the issue.

Swensen says, “Either way, we’re comparing the signature on that return ballot affidavit for every ballot returned to the signature we have on file for that voter.”

Plus, each ballot has a unique voter ID number, and if the number doesn’t match the name of the person it was intended for, the ballot is tossed.