This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah's election officials Republicans and Democrats alike say Donald Trump's repeated assertions of a "rigged" system are baseless and dangerous, undermining a key pillar of democracy.
Voters can have confidence that their ballots are counted accurately, they say, and that the candidates who win in November do so fairly.
"What I'd like voters to know is that, as Utah's election administrators, we are fiercely protective of their vote and they don't even have to trust us saying that, they can come in and watch," said Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch, a Republican, adding that he welcomes visitors to observe vote counting.
Hatch organized all 29 county clerks and the elections officials at the lieutenant governor's office to sign onto a letter defending Utah's election system a letter that was published Oct. 9 in newspapers, including The Salt Lake Tribune.
Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, had made assertions of widespread voter fraud before that, but in recent days these allegations have become a campaign-stump speech staple, on par with his criticisms of Democrat Hillary Clinton and the media. Voter fraud has also been the focus of his widely read tweets.
"The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary but also at many polling places SAD," he tweeted Sunday.
On Monday, he tweeted: "Of course there is large- scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!"
Trump has provided no evidence, and his assertions are general, rather than specific, frustrating people like Mark Thomas, Utah's director of elections.
"It is certainly concerning, as election officials, to hear that kind of rhetoric," Thomas said, "especially when you don't hear any specific allegations."
Thomas said it isn't unusual to have candidates blame the election system for their struggles with voters, but it is rare to see it from a presidential hopeful.
Trump's amped-up charges of a rigged election come as more polls show Clinton in a strong position to win the general election, and as he's trying to fight off accusations of sexual assault after the release of a video showing him bragging about groping women.
Even Utah, where Republican presidential hopefuls have won easily since 1964, is now a swing state as a series of polls shows a tight race among Trump, Clinton and independent conservative Evan McMullin.
President Barack Obama weighed in Tuesday.
"I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place," he said. "I'd advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes."
Hatch, the Weber County clerk, likes to think that Trump's assertions are more of a swipe at the media for focusing on the allegations than at the integrity of the voting system.
"That helps me not get so angry," he said.
He said for Utahns who vote by mail, every ballot is scanned using a bar code to ensure no one votes twice and then the signature of the voter is verified against the one on the voter-registration file.
No person is left alone with the ballots, and the ballots are kept in a secure location.
Electronic-voting machines are never connected to the internet and use tough encryption software. For someone to hack Utah's election, Hatch said, they'd have to do it one voting machine at a time. After each election, a random audit ensures that the vote tallies on the hard drive match those printed on a spool of paper at the time each person votes.
In the 11 years Utah has used electronic machines, there's never been a discrepancy between the paper record and the electronic count.
Beyond these details, longtime Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, a Democrat, pointed out that each county has its own election officials and its own team to track votes.
"Any orchestrated conspiracy to rig an election is unfathomable," she said. "It is just not possible."
In the 26 years she's been in office, the only documented case of voter fraud she's aware of in Salt Lake County involved a man in 2006 who attempted to vote twice to test the electronic-voting machines. The county's election staff caught it and the man confessed.
Thomas said in 2006 some people registered to vote in Daggett County though they lived elsewhere. They were caught and prosecuted.
Despite these cases, voter fraud "is very, very minimal" Thomas said, adding, "certainly we haven't seen any real effort to manipulate the election."
Republicans in other states have warned of voter fraud and have used the issue to pass voter ID laws. But studies haven't found any major cases of fraud.
A 2014 report from the Government Accountability Office said voter fraud is hard to track because there's no centralized database of complaints, but found "no apparent cases of in-person voter impersonation" from 2004 to 2014.
Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor based in Los Angeles, has been tracking potential cases of voter fraud for years. He said he found 31 cases between 2000 and 2014, a time when more than 1 billion votes had been cast.