SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Voter fraud is rare in Utah and typically involves parents submitting ballots for children who are away from home serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the state’s lieutenant governor said.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said voter fraud is usually the result of a misunderstanding of election laws, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.
“They think, ‘Oh, I’ll just fill it out for him, and I’ll sign it and send it back in,’” Cox said last week during a gubernatorial campaign visit to Fielding.
In those cases, Cox said state officials “call them up and tell them that’s illegal, you can’t do that.”
Completing another person’s voting form is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
The state’s embrace of voting by mail has increased the ease with which parents can obtain and fill out a child’s ballot, officials said.
Parents may be concerned the postal system will not deliver a ballot in time from overseas. But electronic voting options are now available to young missionaries, officials said.
Election officials run across situations of parents filling in ballots on a “fairly frequent basis,” said Rozan Mitchell, Utah County’s elections director.
Officials often detect the fraud when they notice a ballot envelope signature does not match the signature on file for the voter, she said.
“You say, ‘I’m pretty sure that Nathan’s signature is not that fancy and loopy,’” Mitchell said, adding that officials “look at other signatures of voters registered at that address and you go, ‘That signature matches his mother’s to a tee.’”