Cache County Clerk/Auditor David Benson (background, center) faced a small group of local residents and members of the media on Mar. 1 to explain his role in the recent investigations of election irregularities that took place in his office in fall of 2023.

CACHE COUNTY – A small but receptive group of valley citizens turned out on the evening of Mar. 1 to hear what Cache County Clerk/Auditor David Benson intended to be a public meeting/press conference to finally put the recent investigations of his office to rest.

Instead, Benson found himself preaching to a choir of residents who were obviously less than enthusiastic about Utah’s mail-in election process.

After even-handedly fielding a couple pointed questions about his own alleged responsibility in the election probe by state officials and the Cache County Attorney’s Office, Benson responded to another query by confessing that, given his personal preference, he would opt for in-person voting only in the upcoming presidential election.

“If I had to choose between voting by (mail-in ballots) and voting on-paper (on election day), I would choose paper,” the county’s chief election official admitted. “If I had to choose between counting ballots by hand and counting by machines, I would probably prefer counting by hand.”

Benson explained that he made no secret of those preferences when he campaigned in the special election that selected him to replace former County Clerk/Auditor Jess Bradfield in June of 2023.

Since assuming his county post, Benson has added an option to the clerk/auditor’s website that allows local residents to opt out of receiving a ballot in the mail, although that option has been less than a roaring success.

“So far,” he said, “we’ve only had about 20 residents take advantage of that option to stop receiving their ballots by mail.”

Prior to the meeting, discussions by the mostly elderly members of the audience had focused on doubts about the validity of the Utah’s mail-in balloting process. They largely agreed with one audience member who complained that the state system of counting ballots “… appears needless complex and cumbersome.”

Since mail-in ballot are the state’s system, however, Benson said his hand were tied.

The state’s investigation of local election irregularities had been underway since shortly after Utah’s municipal elections on Nov. 21, 2023.

In early December, officials from Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson’s office notified Cache County of their concerns about the county officials’ handling of election processes.

In the subsequent investigation, state officials not only found evidence that a county employee falsified a document verifying the function of the county’s ballot tabulating machines in October, but also reported 31 separate violations of statutory obligations and failures to adhere to practices that guard against fraud and election manipulation.

Benson said that he was actually grateful for the state probe and for a concurrent investigation by the Cache County Attorney Office that resulted in criminal charges being brought against former county election coordinator Dustin Hansen for falsifying a required document.

The result of those inquiries, he judged, has been to make the county’s election processes better and stronger.

Benson added that the “lion’s share” of the now-corrected 31 items noted in the report from the lieutenant governor’s office were the result of practices that he inherited from the former clerk/auditor.

Benson also insisted that his decision not to seek re-election in November was unrelated to the state probe.

“This is not a job that I need or want …” he emphasized. “I saw this is my opportunity to step up and be the next neighbor to help out our community.”

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