Fringe party captures votes | ParkRecord.com

Fringe party captures votes

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Republicans in Summit County realize that the Democrats will frequently beat them in the county.

But the Personal Choice Party?

In an unexpected Election Day result, the fringe Personal Choice Party, with only one person on an otherwise loaded ballot in Summit County, received more straight-party votes in the county than the GOP did.

The Democrats received more straight-party votes than the other parties but the Personal Choice results trailed the Democrats only by about 10 percentage points, a much better showing than expected.

There are suggestions that people did not understand the new touch-screen voting machines used on Election Day. On one screen, people were asked if they wanted to vote a straight party ticket, meaning that they choose that party in each partisan contest.

There is a theory that people saw the Personal Choice selection and, believing that they were choosing to vote contest by contest, with their own choices, selected Personal Choice. The votes were then recorded as a straight-party selection for the Personal Choice Party.

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"There was confusion with the voters yesterday," says Summit County Clerk Sue Follett, the county’s elections officer.

Follett says some voters were under the impression that choosing Personal Choice meant that they would make selections contest by contest.

In Summit County, the Personal Choice Party received 30.45 percent of the straight-party votes, 1,136 ballots. The party trailed the Democrats, with 40.79 percent of those votes, but outpaced the Republicans, which received 27.50 percent of the straight-party votes.

But Roger Price, the only Personal Choice Party candidate on the local ballot, received just 3.72 percent of the votes in his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. Price, who says he ran a campaign on a platform of personal freedoms, truth and justice, says people who may have made a mistake were not alert voters.

"If you’re going to be free, you have to think and pay attention," he says.

Price surmises that the 396 people who voted for him in Summit County meant to vote for him. However, he says that the 740 others who voted straight-party tickets probably unknowingly cast those ballots.

"Maybe they ought to go back to school," Price says, adding that he campaigned in Summit County once, at the beginning of October.

Statewide, Price received 8,963 votes, 1.63 percent. Sen. Orrin Hatch, the incumbent Republican, won the contest, beating Democrat Pete Ashdown, Price and three other third-party candidates.

Joe Demma, the chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, who is the state elections officer, says, statewide, the Personal Choice Party received about 15,000 straight-party votes, 2.5 percent of the vote.

The Personal Choice Party, with a smiley face as its logo, spreads a philosophy that the government should not interfere with Americans unless someone is harming someone else.

"Personal Choice expresses the philosophy of live and let live. Personal Choice demands that, as long as I am not hurting anyone else, only I have the right to choose how I spend my time, my wealth, my life, my honor," the preamble to the party’s constitution says.

Tuesday was the first time many Utahns voted using the state’s new Diebold Election Systems touch-screen voting machines. Some people were concerned with the switch to the touch-screen machines but critics, including defeated Summit County clerk candidate Kathy Dopp, say that the Personal Choice showing was likely an innocent mistake, not tampering.

Dopp, whose candidacy was centered on concerns about the voting machines, says some of the people who voted a straight-party Personal Choice ticket were confused and she does not allege corruption. Maybe the screen could be clearer, she says.

"I think, in the future, if it would fit on the screen, they should put ‘Personal Choice Party,’ so they know it’s a party," Dopp says, adding a more detailed analysis is needed before it can be determined if people meant to vote for the Personal Choice Party.

Follett says voters had opportunities to ensure that they were voting properly on the touch-screen machines. Once someone selected a straight-party ticket, the voter could change their vote at that moment. Or, she says, voters could review their selections on the screen and on a printed ballot.

"It gave them the chance, twice, to review it," Follett says.