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Parkite may contest election results

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

A woman in Park City may challenge results from city council races in Summit County after she claimed her ballot was plainly visible to poll workers at the Marsac Building.

"I suppose one could question the validity of the election now and that would cost a lot of money for taxpayers," Jill Sheinberg said. "You figure, well, the people in charge must know. We can’t, obviously, take that position. Whose plan is this? Who is responsible for this?"

Voters across Summit County were not provided ways to secure their votes from the eyes of nosey poll workers who handled the paper ballots before they were deposited in locked boxes, she said.

"This is the United States, we don’t vote this way," Sheinberg said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "Voting is a confidential matter. We don’t raise our hands and say who we are for."

A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is examining the case.

"Secrecy of the ballot and the sanctuary of the polling place is of the utmost importance," ACLU attorney Marina Lowe said Tuesday. "When that secrecy might be breached it could lead to people being unduly influenced or interfere with their right to freely choose who they want to vote for."

Especially in rural cities and towns in Summit County, she said, adding that Tuesday’s election could be declared unconstitutional.

"They’re often city council members who are up for a vote and it might be your neighbor who is running the election polling place," Lowe said. "It certainly could make things more uncomfortable for you in your interactions with that person later on. Your right to vote shouldn’t be compromised by those sorts of considerations."

Officials changed the process after a slew of telephone calls Sheinberg placed to Park City Attorney Mark Harrington and Summit County Clerk Kent Jones, the county’s chief election officer.

Election judges may not have been properly instructed not to peek at ballots they were handling.

"We made sure they understood how to correct that so it didn’t happen anymore," Jones said Tuesday. "I’m fine with what we’ve done and I can accept responsibility for that if I didn’t convey that to

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Voters were asked around noon not to hand ballots to poll workers before depositing them because folding the sheets didn’t allow all votes to remain confidential, said Ruth Gezelius, an election judge at the Marsac Building.

"The worst thing is that when I called [Jones] originally, he said that he would take care of it," Sheinberg said about a call she placed around 9 a.m. "When a friend of mine voted two hours later it was exactly the same situation. This is an election and it’s not even important enough to follow up, evidently."

The election Tuesday was likely the first time so-called optic scan machines were used to count votes in Summit County, Jones said about ballots that required voters fill in bubbles by their choices.

"All [judges] have to do to make that secret, is hand [voters] a blank sheet of paper when they get their ballot," Jones said, adding that voters could use the sheet to cover their votes.

Still, Sheinberg insisted voters were not provided blank sheets. Her friend in Park City refused to turn her unconcealed ballot over to poll workers.

"Of course they made her feel very foolish, which is absolutely wrong," Sheinberg said. "Why should a voter give a piece of paper over when all it needs is to have the top torn off? I think I could do that."


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