LOCAL NEWS

Utah lawmaker resigns after calling for ‘forensic’ audit of Utah election

Oct 29, 2021, 10:49 AM | Updated: 10:58 am

State Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, speaks during a rally calling for a forensic vote aud...

State Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, speaks during a rally calling for a forensic vote audit at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. (Deseret News)

(Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — House Rep. Stephen Christiansen, R-West Jordan, has announced his resignation from the Utah Legislature.

Christensen’s resignation came after he led a rally and misinformation-fraught committee hearing on Utah’s Capitol Hill last week to call for an Arizona-style election audit of the state’s 2020 election results.

The findings of the Arizona audit found no evidence of massive voter fraud and that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. The latest recount yielded 99 additional votes for Biden and 261 fewer votes for former President Donald Trump.

Utah has already audited its 2020 elections on state and local levels through a certification process called a canvass. In this process, clerk staff meet publicly and audited a random sample of all ballots cast.

Gov. Spencer Cox and his Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said they were “frustrated by the misinformation that was presented” regarding the security of Utah’s elections in that committee hearing.

In a resignation letter submitted to House Speaker Brad Wilson and the Legislature Thursday, Christiansen said he’s stepping down mostly because his wife was “attacked” by individuals for his statements.

“My time in the legislature has increasingly been spent pushing back against government overreach, excessive spending growth, policies that limit freedoms and liberty, and anything that weakens faith, families, the sanctity of life, and the sacred rights with which we have been blessed,” Christiansen said in his resignation letter. “I have tried to do that in a respectful, professional, factual, yet clear and passionate way. While I expected, unfortunately, to be personally maligned and ridiculed as a public servant, I did not expect to see individuals attack my wife as they have, nor to see the significance of the impact of those attacks on her and our family. Primarily for that reason, it has become necessary to ‘pause.'”

Christiansen did not rule out a return to politics, saying the United States is in “the midst of a Constitutional crisis of epic proportions” and he may return to the public arena.

The former lawmaker also announced he is retiring from his employment with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to avoid potential misunderstandings.

“My desire is to actively express my feelings in support of liberty and our Republic,” Christiansen said. “In doing so, I do not wish to infer that my views represent those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. … The decision to leave Church employment is mine alone.”

“The Church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians,” reads an official statement from the Church. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established.”

The Utah Democratic Party issued a statement following Christiansen’s resignation, which said, Utah Democrats unequivocally condemn attacks on the families of elected officials. However, Rep. Christiansen made a name for himself in our state and nationally as a peddler of dangerous conspiracy theories. By aligning himself closely with insurrectionists who sought to destroy our system of government and way of life, Rep. Christiansen put our state, nation, and democratic ideals in jeopardy.

“His loss from the legislature is a win and gain for democracy, our shared sense of patriotism, and for our nation as a whole. The fewer elected officials like Christiansen in legislatures nationwide, the safer our children are from a future of authoritarianism.”

The Utah House Majority tweeted, “We wish (Christiansen) the best in his future endeavors,” and the Utah Republican Party has not released a statement.

Gov. Cox, Lt. Gov. Henderson ‘frustrated by misinformation’

An estimated 200 people attended a meeting of the Judiciary Interim Committee on Oct. 20 regarding the security of Utah’s elections.

During the meeting, Christiansen called for a “widespread, ‘forensic’ audit in Utah because the issue of ‘election integrity’ goes “much, much deeper than Donald J. Trump,'” the Deseret News reported.

In a statement, Cox and Henderson jointly specified the misinformation given in the committee that voting machines can be hacked, that there are more ballots than voters, that algorithms control voter registration and “other spurious claims made without evidence.”

“All of these assertions are absolute falsehoods,” the statement said.

Christiansen appeared on a podcast hosted by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon the day before the committee meeting to tout his efforts to gather many citizens at the rally on the following day.

The day after the meeting, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the committee investigating the violent Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Christiansen said he wanted to do away with voting by mail — a practice that has been in place in Utah for nearly a decade. He also wanted to do away with voting machines.

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Utah lawmaker resigns after calling for ‘forensic’ audit of Utah election