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Request for records denied by county

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Summit County Clerk Sue Follett has again irked a Park City voting activist by refusing to release records from June’s primary election.

Because she distrusts the county’s controversial touch-screen voting machines, Park City resident Kathy Dopp says the records are necessary to ensure the new machines are counting votes accurately.

Follett, however, insisted state law requires her to privately store ballots for 22 months before destroying them.

"These records have nothing to do with the ballots," Dopp, who is candidate for county clerk, countered.

With the county this year using electronic voting machines, manufactured by Diebold Election Systems, for the first time, releasing records from the June primary and November general election could allow citizens to verify the computers tabulated votes correctly, she added.

"Denying open-records requests for election-verification records leaves the door wide open to public speculation that Summit County is attempting to hide evidence of problems with our electronic vote counts or even possibly to manipulate the election," Dopp said in telephone interview Tuesday.

A poll worker claimed during the primary election that the number of votes counted in a precinct in South Summit exceeded the number of people who signed up to vote, she told the Summit County Commission last week.

"You really have no idea who wins the elections, even when the margins are really wide," Dopp said, insisting an independent audit is the only way to ensure election integrity. "Who knows how many other polling locations something similar happened at? We don’t know."

Follett and the Summit County Attorney’s Office have misinterpreted the law, Dopp said.

The touch-screen machines record votes electronically and on paper, she explained.

"Those two counts are supposed to be identical, although, they found out they weren’t always," said Dopp, who last week appealed Follett’s denial of her open-records request. "I’ve decided the only way to find out about any discrepancies between the electronic and the paper records here in Summit County would be to obtain the actual records."

Though Dopp acknowledged Tuesday she should not be allowed access to paper rolls similar to cash-register tapes used by the machines to record votes, records similar to those Follett has denied access to have been provided to citizens in other parts of Utah.

"Ninety-two percent of Americans, of all demographic groups and all political parties, want to have transparency in our elections," Dopp said.

Follett’s decision was upheld last week when Summit County denied Dopp’s appeal, Summit County Attorney David Brickey said.

"We agreed with Sue because the statute says, short of a court order to release the information, Sue is to keep it locked up," Brickey said. "Get a judge to order us to release it. In the meantime, we’ve got to follow the law."

Dopp is expected to appeal the decision to the state’s open-records committee.

"If a guy wants to dig deep enough, or look hard enough, you might find a discrepancy someplace," County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme said. "I don’t think there is anything that is foolproof."


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