Early voters overwhelm poll workers
October 24, 2008
Some Parkites claim they were mistakenly told they had already voted when they tried to cast ballots early this week on electronic voting machines.
"I walked to the table and gave them my name, they put the card into the machine and it came up and said I had already voted," Mary Cook said about voting Wednesday at the Park City Library and Education Center. "I had not already voted, that’s what I was there for was to vote."
There have been a few snafus since early voting began Tuesday.
Parkite Patricia Smith said she watched as a poll worker mistakenly told three people they had already voted.
"They brought their cards to the table and were told they could not be accepted because they had already voted," Smith explained.
Maybe election officials misjudged the early demand from voters and didn’t properly train poll workers for the pressure, said Cook, who filled out a provisional ballot by hand after the computer rejected her vote.
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"What it points to is either a lack of training or a lack of skill at what it is they’re doing," Cook said. "The people behind me said if the system is not working properly they’re not voting What was really interesting to me was how interested and how concerned the voters were that the system operated properly and their votes counted."
Meanwhile, the two poll workers were not sufficiently monitoring voter records and election machines in Park City, Smith charged.
"All of the records and voting cards were right there in a stack, and they both deserted the table," Smith said.
But Chief Deputy Summit County Clerk Ryan Cowley rejects that claim and insisted poll workers are properly trained.
"There was still another judge in the room who was handling what was going on," Cowley said, adding that more than 1,500 people voted early this week in Summit County. "We didn’t know what type of a turnout to expect but we’ve been able to handle it and have kept the lines relatively short."
Without poll watchers, however, election machines in Kamas and at Kimball Junction also weren’t properly guarded, Smith said.
Electronic voting machines used in Utah already impact the state’s ability to respond to Election Day emergencies, said Parkite Kathy Dopp, a frequent critic of touch-screen voting.
"The two reasons are they don’t have any requirement for back-up paper ballots at the voting systems in case the machines are [malfunctioning,]" Dopp said. "Utah also has no valid post-election audits that would actually detect errors in the machine vote counts."
Cowley disagrees with Dopp.
Touch-screen machines in Summit County worked well this week, he countered in a telephone interview.
"That was one time on one afternoon with maybe two or three people, and I haven’t seen that issue since," Cowley said about the computer glitch Wednesday in Park City.
A malfunctioning voter database caused the computer in Park City to identify some people as having voted before they had even stepped up to the machines, he said.
"If there is a doubt in the election judge’s mind that they voted, they have them do a provisional," Cowley said.
Provisional ballots are paper ballots which will not be counted for several days after the Nov. 4 election.
"Provisional ballots are normally reserved for voters who they do not know for sure if they are legally eligible," Dopp explained. "They don’t count all of the provisional ballots and they often don’t count them until two weeks after the election."
For a provisional ballot to count, registered voters must show identification and prove where they live, Cowley said.
But the poll worker in Park City didn’t know how to properly handle her provisional ballot, Cook claimed.
"When I finished with the provisional ballot I had to tell them that they had to fill in certain parts of the ballot that are supposed to be filled in by a poll worker. They didn’t seem to know that," Cook said. "Some other women were very concerned that there might be some impropriety going on. I tend to think incompetence."