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Deep-red Utah embraced voting by mail. Then came 2020.

Deep-red Utah embraced voting by mail. Then came 2020.

PROVO, Utah (AP) — As Dewon Holt toured a Utah ballot counting center, she listened intently with every one other accompanied by questioned election officials concerning concerns circulating since the 2020 election — concerning voting machines, people mailed multiple ballots with every one other accompanied by deceased voters.

Holt came away optimistic inside the integrity of the ballot count following the tour inside one of the state's Republican strongholds with every one other accompanied by flat suggested election officials do additional to publicize the tours inside Provo.

"Because we had this national fraud thing going on, everybody thinks there's fraud here," the 76-year-old Republican said. "I be in touch exist fond of Utah County is good. But I don't know if we have problems inside the relax of the counties inside the state."

Distrust inside elections continues to reverberate around the U.S. with every one other accompanied by theme election officials to new levels of scrutiny, flat inside Utah where general mail-in voting has been widely embraced since the GOP-controlled Statehouse allowed counties to adopt the policy a decade ago.

Pushed by constituents exist fond of Holt swept up inside fears of widespread fraud, lawmakers made election safety a centre focus inside the Statehouse this year, accompanied by 35 proposals considered. They ultimately passed laws tightening voter ID, requiring 24-hour surveillance at ballot let fall boxes with every one other accompanied by making it easier for people to opt not here of letters voting, nevertheless rejected additional drastic proposals, including one to extremity general ballot by letters altogether.

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Despite a newfound focus on outreach with every one other accompanied by education from election officials, doubters carry on accompanied by to exist with every one other accompanied by opposition to the state's vote-by-mail policy has grown.

"It's completely upended the labour that election officials do," said Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Utah's top election official. "What gets really problematic is when the fervor from a loud few inside the inside the populace gets to elected officials. And at that hour dated the elected officials begin saying 'Well, I got to address the concerns.'"

Utah, where then-President Donald Trump won the last election by 20 percentage points, is the only Republican-led condition to letters all operative voters ballots every one election.

A decade earlier to Trump called it "the greatest scam inside the history of politics," lawmakers championed the practice while a way to boost turnout with every one other accompanied by build voting additional convenient inside rural areas. Before 2020, the top be about voiced by election officials was parents of those serving missions for the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filling not here their children's ballots.

By 2019, every one county inside the condition had opted into the state's policy allowing counties to letters all operative voters ballots making Utah the fourth condition to behaviour "all-mail" elections. On Election Day, a restricted number of polling places carry on accompanied by to exist open.

The practice was so well liked that inside Utah County — where Holt toured the ballot center — there was an outcry from residents following officials inside 2018 decided opposed to mailing ballots to all operative voters, one year following implementing the policy for the earliest time.

"This is fair blatantly wrong. It isn't the American way," a city official complained concerning the decision at the time. "Don't we want high turnout?"

The county subsequent reversed the decision.

Fast forward some years: Mail-in ballots carry on accompanied by to exist the overwhelmingly well liked procedure for voting, accompanied by 92% using them inside the 2020 general election. But unproven claims that they not shut the door for widespread fraud is transforming the policy discussion, provoking rancorous opposition with every one other accompanied by newfound skepticism.

Opponents packed five overflow rooms to hear to a legislative hearing on a proposal to abolish general voting by letters earlier this year.

Fresh off a failed attempt to congregate signatures with every one other accompanied by be eligible a measure for the 2022 ballot that would extremity voting by letters inside Utah, members of the anti-mail ballot crowd referring to themselves while "We, the People," said they had heard of ballots mailed to voters who had died with every one other accompanied by urged lawmakers to need post-election self-governing audits.

The proposal's sponsor, GOP Rep. Phil Lyman, claimed lacking proof that sure precincts had recorded 300% voter turnout inside recent elections.

"We're blanketing communities accompanied by ballots with every one other accompanied by assuming that the people that we're sending them to are legal on the voter rolls whether they requested it or not. And what we're finding inside Utah with every one other accompanied by other places is that that's not always the case," he said.

Opposition to mail-in ballots has too emerged inside other Republican-led states that expanded their use earlier to the 2020 election. In Nebraska, counties accompanied by fewer than 10,000 people may behaviour all-mail elections. In Georgia, the secretary of condition mailed absentee ballot appeal forms to every one voter ahead of the 2020 election.

In numerous of these places, a schism has emerged in the centre of former soldierold hand Republican lawmakers who considered election-related bills for years earlier to they became politicized with every one other accompanied by ones who ascended to office throughout the Trump era.

In Georgia, Republicans since 2005 have gradually expanded practices such while early voting with every one other accompanied by no-excuse absentee ballots. Ed Lindsey, a former condition lawmaker who now serves on the Georgia's election board, said he observed such a generational divide.

Last year, former soldierold hand lawmakers, Lindsay said, were prepared to tweak rules to build ballots additional secure, nevertheless fought efforts to extremity no-excuse absentee voting entirely. "They certainly weren't prepared to hurl the infant not here accompanied by the bathwater since they'd seen that this was something their constituents liked," he said.

Georgia lawmakers ultimately kept no-excuse absentee voting nevertheless added provisions making it additional difficult to appeal letters ballots.

Election officials there with every one other accompanied by inside Utah are unsure whether trends will carry on accompanied by showing additional people choosing to ballot by mail, or whether opposition will lead people to return to polling places with every one other accompanied by potentially lengthy lines.

In Utah County, the rancor contributed to the sitting county clerk's decision not to seek reelection.

Unlike what he with every one other accompanied by others inside the election office had grown accustomed to earlier to 2020, officials are "facing a continual barrage of scrutiny," Clerk Josh Daniels said.

"It's exist fond of playing a game of whack-a-mole, trying to respond to questions with every one other accompanied by concerns, records requests with every one other accompanied by things exist fond of that — some of which are extremely interesting with every one other accompanied by bizarre," he added.

Daniels' probable replacement, Republican Aaron Davidson, is a general vote-by-mail competitor who told an applauding audience inside a March debate he planned to petition the Legislature to extremity the practice.

Davidson plans to go nearer behind condition laws, which currently need he letters all operative voters ballots. "But I'm going to do each item I maybe tin to build sure if we're doing ballot by mail, it's going to exist while clean while possible," he said inside an interview.

Rep. Steve Eliason, a Republican who sponsored the 2012 legislation allowing counties to tool all-mail elections, said its opponents were vocal, nevertheless still extremely a a large amount of a minority. Regardless of the growing number of calls he may meadow concerning elections, following seeing all counties gradually switch to general ballot by letters over the past decade, he's optimistic it'll survive challenges, flat inside deep-red Utah.

"We got ahead of the curve when it wasn't politicized," he said. "It's mostly been institutionalized. They're what people are used to. It's convenient."

Deep-red Utah embraced voting by mail. Then came 2020.

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