CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Utah prosecutors have charged a former county clerk with three felonies and other counts for allegedly shredding and otherwise mishandling ballots from the 2020 and 2022 elections.
The alleged misdeeds involved ballots cast by about 5,000 voters in Juab County, a desert area of west-central Utah with about 12,000 residents.
Former Juab County Clerk/Auditor Alaina Lofgran is accused of allowing ballots to be shredded soon after the 2022 election in violation of a law requiring their preservation for at least 22 months. The law is for aiding recounts.
Lofgran also improperly stored ballots from the 2020 election, keeping them in a basement storage room accessible by multiple county employees and easily visible, prosecutors allege in charging documents filed in Utah state court Thursday.
State law requires ballots and election returns to be locked in a safe and secure place.
“These charges are serious and reflect the heavy responsibility of county clerks to uphold election law. Public trust demands accountability of those who swear oaths to fulfill their duties with fidelity and then fail to do so,” Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said in a statement Friday.
Reached by phone Friday, Lofgran declined to comment but said she would Monday after talking to her attorney.
"I would love to comment then," Lofgran said.
A Republican, Lofgran was Juab County clerk from 2015 to this year. She did not seek reelection in 2022.
The charges followed a 2022 lawsuit against Juab and several other Utah counties seeking 2020 election records. During the lawsuit, a state judge told Lofgran to preserve records from the 2020 election, according to the charging document.
The lawsuit was dismissed but appealed, resulting in a second court order to Lofgran to preserve the 2020 election results.
Soon after the 2022 election, a witness allegedly saw Lofgran put 2022 ballots in a “shred bin” in a large closet near the clerk's office. The ballots had to be taken out of the shred bin for a recount but a deputy clerk allegedly saw Lofgran put them back in later.
The election reports were done and “we don't need them anymore," Lofgran allegedly told the deputy clerk, who is unnamed in the charging document.
A shredding company took away the shred bins. Lofgran allegedly told investigators she knew she had to preserve the ballots and would be prosecuted if she did not, and was aware of the court order to preserve 2020 records due to the pending lawsuit.
In March, investigators searched the county offices and the basement room accessible by multiple county employees. They allegedly found none of the 4,795 ballots cast in the 2022 general election and only some of the 5,932 ballots cast in the 2020 general election.
Lofgran is charged with willful neglect of duty, destroying or concealing ballots and destroying public records, all felonies, as well as two counts of improper disposition of ballots and two counts of unofficial misconduct, which are both misdemeanors.
The charging documents do not allege Lofgran had a political motivation. Clerks elsewhere have landed in trouble for allegedly tampering with voting equipment and technology amid former President Donald Trump's false claims that fraud cost him reelection in 2020.
In Colorado, former clerk Tina Peters faces charges for an alleged effort to breach voting system technology after the 2020 election. In Michigan, Stephanie Scott, a small-town clerk ousted by voters earlier this year, got stripped of her election duties in 2021 amid accusations she improperly handled voting equipment after casting doubt on President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.