Lame-duck clerk rejects requests for early voting
Summit County’s elected lame-duck clerk, Sue Follett, who earns an annual salary and benefits package worth more than $107,000, appeared poised this week to end her term on a sour note.
Because Follett has refused to offer voters in Park City a more convenient location than Coalville to vote early in the Nov. 7 general election, Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott has arranged for transportation to North Summit for voters in other areas who wish to cast ballots early.
"I think it’s a very negative decision and I think the whole process has been negative," said Elliott about Follett’s choice not to set up polling locations outside of Coalville nine days early. "I’m very, very disappointed."
Elliott encourages those interested in arranging a ride to the polls to contact her at 649-5712.
"People need to go and vote because we have some extremely important elections," she said.
Elliott insists the county’s next clerk must be more "positive" and "forward looking" than Follett, a Democrat who was ousted by delegates at the party’s nominating convention in Kamas last spring.
County Commissioner Bob Richer also expressed disappointment Thursday about Follett’s decision to bar voters from casting ballots early in South Summit and on the West Side.
"I would like to see voting made as easy and convenient for people as possible," Richer said in a telephone interview, while acknowledging, "It’s Sue’s decision."
The Utah Legislature has made it possible for Follett to arrange for polling locations to be manned early anywhere in the county.
Follett, however, insists she lacks the time and personnel necessary to make more than one voting location available to voters starting Oct. 24.
According to Elliott, accommodations have been made with officials at the Marsac Building to ensure the county’s touch-screen election machines would remain secure and county employees would be trained properly as poll judges to operate the site.
"Council for years has really been interested in getting the vote out and we had hoped, with a month to go here, that things could have been figured out," Park City Manager Tom Bakaly lamented Friday. "The cleanest thing would be for the county to contract with folks and have early voting in Kamas, Coalville, the Richins Building and Park City, and they’ve chosen not to do that."
Most of the county’s registered voters, however, live in Park City and the Snyderville Basin.
"I thought it was something we could work out, where we would allow employees to essentially work for the county," Bakaly said.
But that could compromise a contract the county has with the state to operate the controversial Diebold electronic voting machines, Follett countered.
"You can hire all the temporary employees to do the physical work but you still have to have the supervisory capability out of our office," she said. "That supervision cannot come from a temporary employee with very little training."
Still, Brian Bellamy, the county’s personnel director, said hiring temporary employees to run more voting locations is possible, according to Elliott.
"We can work it out any way Sue feels comfortable with," Elliott said.
But Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme says he is against expanding early voting into other areas of the county.
"For several hundred years now, since they started having elections in this country, there is an Election Day," he said, insisting it isn’t a "hardship" to wait 30 minutes to vote. "I take issue with the fact that people want to take it into other places and change the law."
But state lawmakers created early voting this year to provide more opportunities for voters, Richer countered.
"This is Utah’s first step in doing so and it’s unfortunate that our county clerk deems that we’re not in the position to extend the early voting in a convenient manner to more citizens of the county," Richer said. "There is a recognition nationwide that the voting franchise and the voting process perhaps is antiquated and needs to be looked at or modified."
With the results of political races in Summit County likely hinging on whether more voters from eastern or western Summit County cast ballots, Follett, a Coalville resident, insisted her decision isn’t an attempt to disenfranchise people in Park City and Snyderville.
"The people in Woodland and Kamas could have the same type of perceived disenfranchisement," Follett said. "The top of Woodland, it’s an hour drive for them over to [Coalville]."
Those interested in voting early, who are registered to vote by Oct. 10, can cast ballots in person at the County Courthouse in Coalville, Oct. 24-27 or Oct. 30-Nov. 3. Others can take advantage of the state’s "no-excuse" absentee voting and have ballots mailed to their homes.
Contact Follett at 615-3203 for more information.
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