Utah has turned over 20 county clerks in the last 3 years, state elections office says

May 17, 2023, 7:30 PM | Updated: Jan 12, 2024, 1:55 pm

Ryan Cowley
Director of Elections. (Photo credit: Screen Shot from Government Operations Interim Co...

Ryan Cowley Director of Elections. (Photo credit: Screen Shot from Government Operations Interim Committee - May 17, 2023)

(Photo credit: Screen Shot from Government Operations Interim Committee - May 17, 2023)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s election office says the state has lost 20 county clerks since 2020.

The revelation came as State Director of Elections Ryan Cowley testified before a legislative committee Wednesday, May 17, asking the legislature to pump the breaks on some of their election-related bills.

He said Cache, Utah and Washington counties have had, or will have, three clerks in the last three years.

“That’s 17 of our 29 counties [who’ve had turnover],” said Cowley. 

A combination of factors

One reason for the turnover, Cowley said, is the tense political environment.

“We haven’t had any necessarily actionable threats,  we’ve come really close,” he said. “We’ve had employees (and clerks) been followed home…things that have been said to them.”

On top of this environment, Cowley said clerks now deal with over 600 pages of election code and more comes their way every year. That’s all while dealing with their other county duties.

County clerks are also often in charge of Human Resources, they’re the clerk of the court, plus they do the county’s marriage licences, passports, mail distribution, and much more.

Cowley asked the Government Operations committee to “calm down” the legislation that changes election code. Many clerks, especially in small counties, are also county auditors.

“On top of all that…[Clerks] have all the election responsibility plus the auditing,” he said.

“And it’s just overwhelming on top of the environment.”  

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Utah has turned over 20 county clerks in the last 3 years, state elections office says