32 years later, Sherrie Swensen stepping down as SL County Clerk
Dec 29, 2022, 5:12 PM | Updated: 9:33 pm
SALT LAKE CITY – If you voted in an election in the last 30 years in Salt Lake County, Sherrie Swensen was the county clerk. After eight campaigns and 32 years in that office, Swensen is retiring.
“I’m really thrilled and proud about all of the changes that have been made because I really believe that we have the best voting system that we could possibly have,” Swensen said. She was putting office mementos from three decades of service in boxes as she prepared to move out.
Sherrie Swensen first ran for office in 1990. She said the biggest campaign issue at that time was accessibility to voter registration forms, and getting voters registered. While in office, the voting systems changed twice and the technology evolved, but Swensen’s drive to register voters did not. During that first campaign, she couldn’t believe how little information there was about registering to vote.
“The forms were at the main post office under the counter,” she said. “It was kind of a well-kept secret, how to register to vote.”
Three decades ago, there was no voter outreach or information showing voters how or where to register. The Democratic Party recruited her to run.
“At first I said, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be a candidate.’ And then I ended up saying yes, and here I am, 32 years later,” she said, with a laugh.
After she was elected, Swensen put registration forms in countertop displays where people would find them.
“Not only the post office, libraries and grocery stores and apartment complexes, anywhere they would let me put them,” Swensen said.
As a result, a record number of Salt Lake County voters headed to the polls in 1992. Making voting easier and more accessible for all eligible voters was a cornerstone of her career. By 2013 the Utah Legislature made it possible for voters to vote by mail. Swensen said voter security was never challenged until 2020.
“We had already done it for a long time, even with the permanent absentee program, and we knew it was secure,” she said. “We had processes in place: signature verification for every by-mail ballot returned.”
For every ballot her office sends out, a nine-digit ID number matches an active voter in the database.
“That means that somebody cannot inject ballots into our system, because they would never make it through.“
They also verify every signature. During the 2020 campaign, many individuals spread misinformation to undermine the election.
“I feel like a lot of the people who spread that, number one, had never seen our process. Number two, even if they had I think they didn’t like vote by mail, because quite honestly, it allowed more people to vote.“
Swensen always worked against voter suppression.
“It would take a mass conspiracy of a lot of people trying to skew the outcomes of the elections, and it just isn’t happening,” she said. “So, it was really disheartening to me because we all work so very hard to make sure the elections are fair.”
Last October the KSL Investigators wondered if new requirements affected voting security. They looked at new laws that required cameras to watch over every unattended ballot drop box in Utah. They recorded every movement as voters dropped off their ballots.
Supporters said cameras at the ballot drop boxes are about instilling voter confidence.
Security and voter were things Swensen always strived to achieve.
Swensen’s last official day in office is January 3. Lannie Chapman, who served as Swensen’s chief deputy for three years, was elected clerk in November.