Election irregularities persist
October 31, 2008
Elections officials in Summit County stand behind their controversial electronic voting equipment despite other states which have scrapped the touch-screen systems saying they are prone to error.
"When a person goes to cast a ballot we have high, high, high confidence that it is correct," Summit County Clerk Kent Jones said.
But voting machines similar to those used in Utah are no longer in many parts of California, Ohio, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee and Kentucky, claims Parkite Kathy Dopp, a frequent critic of electronic voting who founded the Utah Count Votes organization.
"They could be tampered with right under the nose of the most conscientious election official," Dopp said about Summit County’s Diebold-manufactured machines.
But Jones, who was elected in 2006 to oversee elections, insists the local voter databases and election machines work fine.
"In our experience in Utah we have not come up with any issues," Jones said, adding that all 29 counties use Diebold machines. "I’m OK with the system we have in the place We do a lot of testing of this kind of stuff, we do a lot of trainings and scenarios."
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But Dopp said she is suspicious because machine vote counts are not compared to paper trails to help ensure accurate election results.
"We have the most secretive election officials of any state in the country and we aren’t even allowed to know if they have security procedures," Dopp complained. "Why on Earth should election procedures be secret from the public?"
Several election irregularities have occurred since early voting began in Summit County Oct. 21.
"I’ve had persistent voting issues this year at my precinct in Kamas and for early voting at the Kimball Junction library," South Summit resident Dave Hoza said. "The pattern suggests that somebody in the county could be disenfranchising this election and I think that issue needs to be discussed."
Because Hoza’s name wasn’t properly listed in the county’s voter database Wednesday he was told he could not vote on an electronic machine. Hoza was offered a paper, provisional ballot, which he refused.
"It’s not acceptable. A lot of people in this country have an aversion to provisional voting right now," Hoza said in a telephone interview. "I don’t know what Summit County’s record for disqualification of provisional votes or lost or otherwise uncounted provisional ballots is."
Provisional ballots are for registered voters who cannot be identified at the polls.
"A provisional ballot is used to correct an address or correct a name," Jones explained. "A provisional ballot has to be qualified to be counted so there is a possibility that the vote won’t be counted."
But that could disenfranchise voters, Hoza countered.
"There is strong enough negative perception cast in the last two national elections over provisional balloting and I don’t want to cast a provisional ballot, and I am going out of my way not to have to do that," Hoza said. "[The county believes] that if they provide for provisional voting in the event that the system doesn’t work sufficiently, that is sufficient. But in this election, I don’t feel like it is. I believe it is my right to vote normally as opposed to being put into the provisional ballots."
Hoza was offered a provisional ballot because his address wasn’t properly entered in the county’s voter database, Jones explained.
"He did not register with an address. He simply put a lot number or something that was not an identifiable, physical address," Jones said. "So when he showed up to vote early he was not on the database as an active voter."
Friday was the last day to vote early in Summit County. Polls open again Tuesday at 7 a.m. and stay open until 8 p.m. See page A-13 for a complete list of polling locations.