Election Day privacy invasion should have been averted | ParkRecord.com

Election Day privacy invasion should have been averted


Election Day privacy invasion should have been averted

During heated election seasons there is one unlikely sanctuary where politics are rarely, if ever, discussed – at the polls. Typically, in Summit County, once citizens step into their school or church or fire station to vote, the small talk between neighbors carefully sidesteps hot button issues. There is an unstated but deeply held understanding that voting is a private matter.

But, on Tuesday, from the Henefer fire station to McPolin Elementary in Park City, early-morning voters found that privacy invaded as they uncomfortably handed their naked paper ballots over to election judges.

The situation was especially awkward for citizens of incorporated areas who, in addition to voting on the statewide school voucher referendum, were picking city councilors and voting on other local issues. For them it was impossible to fold the two-sided sheet of paper so the ovals they had filled in with a black pen were not plainly visible. In fact, many voters were told not to fold their ballots until the poll workers had torn off the receipt at the top of the sheet.

Imagine the embarrassment, especially among the residents of the smaller towns on the east side of the county as they handed their ballots to relatives or colleagues of the candidates.

In previous elections, when Summit County used punch cards, voters were given paper sheaths to conceal their votes as they handed the ballots to poll workers. The election-day volunteers then discreetly recorded the ballot number, handed it back to the voter, who then removed the ballot from the envelope and dropped it in the ballot box. The envelopes were a nice touch, even though the votes on punch cards would have been very difficult to decipher.

Not so the rudimentary paper ballots handed out this week. While there has been lots of hype about new high-tech electronic voting machines, for some reason Summit County officials opted to revert to the old optical scan ballot that uses the same principles elementary school students have been subjected to for half a century: color in the little circle by the right answer.

The old-fashioned ballot might have been considered quaint if not for the county’s inexcusable oversight in not providing a way for voters to conceal their handwritten marks on the way into the ballot box.

Poll workers scrambled Tuesday afternoon to address the county clerk’s faux pas, but for many citizens the damage had already been done. Their right to cast a private vote, one of the basic tenets of our democracy, had been compromised.

Since the controversy surrounding the Presidential election in 2000, citizens have become more skeptical about the election process. Apparently that growing mistrust is warranted. If local election clerks and poll workers can’t ensure the privacy of a paper ballot, how can they be trusted to ensure the privacy and accuracy of electronic voting machines.

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