Elections dominate clerk debate
November 4, 2006
The candidates vying to replace lame-duck Summit County Clerk Sue Follett both acknowledge the elected clerk’s most important duties involve administering elections.
Park City resident Kathy Dopp, a member of the Desert Green Party, insists county elections must be conducted more transparently.
"Utah is one of the most secretive states I have ever seen," Dopp said.
She would provide detailed election returns to the public and have results audited independently if voters elect her as the county’s chief election officer Nov. 7, Dopp claimed.
"[Follett] won’t release records that are routinely released in other states," Dopp said.
With voters in Summit County experimenting for the first time with controversial touch-screen voting machines manufactured by Diebold, Dopp says she fears an election disaster because Follett has not consulted with an independent computer scientist about the machines that are vulnerable to hackers.
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"They are keeping their security procedures a secret from the public You don’t secure anything by keeping your security procedures a secret," Dopp said. "Security by obscurity is a recipe for making sure that insiders can rig elections."
To her critics who claim she lacks the experience necessary to serve as county clerk, Dopp responded, "We don’t have a problem in the other areas of the clerk’s office."
But Jones, a former Republican Summit County clerk running against Dopp as a Democrat, insists managing government records, issuing passports, marriage and business licenses and maintain meeting minutes for the County Commission demands skills his opponent lacks.
"[Dopp] has her reasons for running and she feels very strongly about the voting equipment," Jones said. "Where she may be lacking in understanding and experience is — that’s her one focus."
Whomever the voters elect as clerk will have to understand Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act and how those laws regulate whether county records are private or available to the public.
"The first thing you have to do is separate the private issues from the public issues," Jones said, adding that GRAMA was drafted in the early 1990s. "We need to take a good look at updating and deciding how to eliminate some of these new gray areas."
The law’s deficiencies have resulted in disputes between elected officials and citizens wanting access to electronic correspondences like e-mails, text messages and information politicians receive on their BlackBerry-like devices.
"I don’t think GRAMA knows how to deal with some of these newer issues so it probably needs to be brought more in line with the current situation," Jones said.
Meanwhile, though Dopp has never used GRAMA as an administrator, she insists she is a quick study.
"All you have to do is read the law and understand it," she said.
The clerk, however, must also make sure the Summit County Commission complies with the state’s open-meetings laws, Jones said.
During his administration, however, Jones was criticized for allegedly not keeping adequate meeting minutes.
With three employees, the candidates agree the clerk’s office is understaffed.
Dopp says if elected she would push immediately for the hiring of several new full-time employees.
"The county’s size is increasing and three people in the clerk’s office is ridiculous," she said.
Dopp blasted Jones saying the former Republican from Henefer switched parties to disingenuously woo voters on the West Side. Follett, a Democrat, defeated the incumbent Jones in the clerk’s race in 2002.
"I’m running because no one else who was competent was running," Dopp said.
But switching parties hasn’t handicapped his campaign, Jones countered.
"Everybody I’ve talked to, without question, has said they’re glad to see me come back," he said. "They’re glad I didn’t walk away."