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Clerk against more early-voting posts

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

A move by the Utah Legislature made it possible for voters in Summit County to cast ballots up to nine days early during a primary election last June.

But some candidates complained that by manning just one polling location for early voters in Coalville, Democratic County Clerk Sue Follett disenfranchised citizens in western Summit County.

"It’s not to replace going to your voting place on Tuesday," Follett countered in an interview Thursday. "I don’t believe we’re really disenfranchising the voters."

According to the County Commission, Rep. David Ure, a Kamas Republican, and Cindy LoPiccolo, a Snyderville Democrat, said voting locations should have been set up early in Park City.

Richer and Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott, who both are Democrats, are pushing Follett to post judges at electronic voting machines in Kamas, Park City and the Snyderville Basin for nine days prior to the Nov. 7 general election.

"We just need to be as geographically accessible to people as we can," Elliott said. "We really must do alternate sites."

Richer, who could face off in November for his commission seat in a battle against Woodland Republican Bill Miles, says he supports expanded early voting "as a candidate, but more significantly, as a county commissioner."

But Follett insists her office lacks the manpower necessary to operate secure polling locations before the election outside of the County Courthouse in Coalville.

"We’ll hire you some temps," Elliott responded.

However, there is not time to adequately train election judges or ensure buildings are secure enough to house voting machines for almost two weeks before Election Day, Follett countered.

"It’s a logistical and a security issue for me," Follett said. "The security risks I feel are too great to consider anything other than the one early-voting location in the county."

Voters this year are casting ballots on Summit County’s controversial new Diebold touch-screen election machines.

"If something did happen, we don’t have technical experts on site or within five minutes," Follett said.

Park City resident Kathy Dopp, a candidate for Summit County clerk who often criticizes the Diebold voting machines, says early voting makes elections less secure.

"You just can’t believe the amount of ballot and vote tampering that goes on in America today," Dopp said. "We don’t have our voting systems secured at all to begin with and to add early voting in on top of it increases the security risk and the chance of election tampering."

Delegates in Summit County eliminated Follett from the clerk’s race this year after she served one term in office. Dopp will face off Nov. 7 against Henefer Democrat Kent Jones, a former Summit County clerk who Follett defeated in 2002. No Republican has entered the clerk’s contest.

"The whole security problem is a nightmare to begin with so early voting is too much of a risk," Dopp said, warning that a mediocre computer hacker could begin to rig an election with unguarded machines. "You’ve just got the machines sitting out there and more people have access to them."

But a lockable conference room adjacent to the auditorium at the Sheldon Richins Building could provide secure space for early voting at Kimball Junction, Richer countered.

"For nine days, we’ll say this is the election room," he said.

Meanwhile, Elliott insisted voters should also be allowed to cast ballots early in Park City and Kamas.

But that would take more equipment and personnel from the Clerk’s Office during the busiest time of the year, Follett protested.

During the primary, an election judge was paid $600 to run the early-voting location for nine days in Coalville, she said.

Nearly 100 people voted early last June.

"They didn’t have a problem driving," Follett said, adding that more than half of those who voted early were from western Summit County. "They said their right to vote was more important than the 20-minute drive."


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