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Audit of votes mulled

Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Summit County Commission this week requested that a county lawyer research whether state laws allow an audit of the voting in the upcoming primary election, the first that will use the new and controversial Diebold Election Systems electronic-voting machines.

The request, made to Dave Thomas, the county’s chief civil attorney, comes a little more than two weeks before Summit County citizens are scheduled to vote in a June 27 primary and shows that there are still questions about the new machines.

"It is important to me . . . to ensure the integrity of the election system, which is a concern to all of us," County Commissioner Bob Richer, a Democrat from the Snyderville Basin, said in an interview after the elected officials requested the legal opinion.

Richer said the County Commissioners expect an answer from Thomas on Wednesday, when they next meet. Audits are normally saved for close votes and the legal opinion will likely clarify if an audit can be conducted if the vote is a landslide.

The details of a potential audit were not decided this week but it seems that it could require a piece of equipment from Diebold.

"I think it would give us a degree of confidence," Richer said, adding, "It’s not because we have the jitters or anything like that."

He said the primary would provide a good test because fewer voters normally head to the polls compared to a general election.

"If it’s not precluded, I would want the primary elections to be a test," Richer said.

Voting-rights activists are leery of the Diebold machines, claiming that someone can easily tamper with the voting boxes. They want to ensure that the votes can be audited with a paper trail.

Voters in the primary will cast ballots on touch-screen machines, far different than the punch-card system that has been used in Summit County previously.

Locally, Kathy Dopp, who is campaigning for county clerk on an anti-Diebold platform, has been especially critical of the machines.

Dopp in an interview this week lauded the County Commission’s move to research whether an audit is allowed.

"It’s a victory for the voters and democratic elections," Dopp said, adding, "I’m very pleasantly surprised."

She said voters should have more confidence heading to the polls if an audit is conducted afterward. Dopp also agreed that the primary is a good chance for an audit because of the expected low turnout.

Dopp and another critic worried about the Diebold machines, Sharon Christiansen, on Thursday addressed Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council with the concerns. Dopp said there have been technical problems in other states and claimed that Diebold keeps phony offices.

She wanted the City Council to endorse a resolution or conduct a lobbying effort to ensure there is an independent audit of the votes. Joe Kernan, a City Councilman, agreed that an audit would be valuable.

Dopp addressed the County Commission on Wednesday, Richer said, and in an interview he commended her for her activism.

"Kathy’s all over this stuff in a positive way," Richer said.


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