Parkites must drive to Coalville to vote early
Parkites should plan to gas up for a 25-mile drive to Coalville if they wish to vote early in the upcoming general election.
Summit County Clerk Sue Follett, the county’s election official, says she won’t arrange next month to operate voting equipment in western Summit County.
Most registered voters in the county, however, live in Park City and the Snyderville Basin.
Last week, Democratic Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott made a "heated" demand that westsiders have opportunities to vote early, Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said about a testy exchange between Elliott and Follett that occurred during a meeting Sept. 20.
"I think [Follett] is going to make the right decision for the people of the county and I think these issues can be worked out," Richer said Monday.
But the issue was deadlocked as Follett insisted that manning a voting machine in Park City for nine days before Election Day could compromise the election’s security.
Those interested in voting early can cast ballots in person at the County Courthouse in Coalville Oct. 24-27 or Oct. 30-Nov. 3, Follett said, adding that others can take advantage of the state’s "no-excuse" absentee voting and have ballots mailed to their homes.
"I don’t think it’s a hardship for me not having it over there, and I don’t think I’m disenfranchising voters," Follett said. "Some people are making this an East Side/West Side thing — it’s not. I just want to be fair to everyone."
But candidates complained in the wake of the June primary election that restricting early voting to Coalville deterred westsiders from visiting the polls, Richer has explained.
"We think it’s worth looking at more options than just Coalville," Park City Mayor Dana Williams said Monday.
The Marsac Building houses the Park City Police Department, which operates surveillance cameras at City Hall 24 hours per day, Willams said, adding that two cameras on the building’s main floor monitor the voting room and a space to store the touch-screen machines.
"With a large concentration of county population located in Park City, and the county seat nearly 30 miles distant, it is logical and appropriate to provide an early voting location within Park City to serve citizens in and around Park City," states a letter Williams wrote to Follett Sept. 18.
A secure storage site for the machines has been reserved, Marsac Building officials say.
And an election judge trained to operate the machines during the primary election could be paid to staff an early-voting location in Park City, according to Williams.
"We fit the criteria in terms of security, with cameras and things like that," the mayor said. "People’s access to voting, we just felt, should be more broad."
He insists early voting could benefit senior citizens and others who lack transportation to the polls.
"[Park City] will pay costs associated with the operation of an early voting polling location at the Marsac Building," Williams’ letter states.
According to Follett, roughly 100 voters cast ballots early during the primary election last June after the Utah Legislature cleared the way for early voting this year. The primary election was also the first opportunity for citizens to vote on Summit County’s controversial, new touch-screen machines.
An election judge was paid $600 to oversee the voting location in Coalville for nine days, Follett said.
"Park City Municipal was very, very generous in giving me some staff, et cetera, but my decision last Wednesday was still just the one location here in Coalville," Follett said. "The more hands you have in the pot, the greater chance of error."
If a machine in Park City malfunctions, she insists her two technicians in Coalville are stretched too thin to respond to the West Side.
"If something other than a minor paper jam happened, it has to be handled by my staff," Follett said, adding that during the primary election, no significant glitches occurred. "I cannot train Park City IT staff, it’ll void my contract with the state and Diebold."
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