Web exclusive: Voter intimidation in Garfield County?

Employees at Hell’s Backbone Grill felt intimated by investigations into voter fraud. (File photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — For Blake Spalding, co-owner of the world famous farm-to-table restaurant Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah, the questions to her employees seemed “ridiculous.”

She said one of her employees was asked if she was forced to register to vote as a term of her employment at the restaurant. Spalding, is politically active in Garfield County, and has pushed back hard on President Trump’s successful efforts to reduce the size of the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument in Kane and Garfield counties. Sheriff Danny Perkins said the number of voter registrations coming from one home in Boulder “raised red flags.”

Perkins said between 12 and 20 people had put down the same home as their residence. That home is a nine bedroom house that Spalding owns, and allows her seasonal employees to live in during their employment. Perkins said his deputies looked up the home on Google Maps and it incorrectly showed only a shed in its place.

According to Perkins, his deputies also consulted with the Utah Lt. Governor’s office, who oversees elections in the state. He said officials did not seem very concerned, so he two deputies to ask questions.

Spalding said the deputies also came with two dogs who stayed in the sheriff’s vehicles, but that, Spalding said, seemed to be an intimidation tactic.

Perkins said his deputies asked a few questions, didn’t find any indications of fraud, and left.

Spalding paints a different picture. She said the deputies questioned her employees for more than 30 minutes and stayed on the property for more than an hour.

Perkins said he isn’t trying to “suppress” voter turnout, but he did say there is an important school board election taking place in that area tomorrow, and he says 20 votes could make a big difference with only 500 registered voters in the area.

Spalding fears she and her employees may have been targeted for their political views. She says her employees, who often come from out of state, but live in Utah long enough to be considered residents, have been trying to get registered since March, but she says the Garfield County Clerk’s Office has regularly set up roadblocks in their way.

"I believe in democracy, but democracy only works if people are able to vote,” Spalding said.

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