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Scrap Diebold, City Hall urged

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Beaten Summit County clerk candidate Kathy Dopp last week continued her extended campaign against touch-screen voting machines, urging City Hall officials not to use them in Park City’s 2007 municipal election.

Dopp told Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council last Thursday that they should consider other options next November, when three City Council seats are on the ballot.

The touch-screen machines, manufactured by Diebold Election Systems, were the key issue during the contest for the clerk’s contest. State leaders picked the machines and they debuted in 2006.

Dopp, who ran as a member of the outsider Desert Greens Party, lost the election to Democrat Kent Jones, the previous clerk.

Dopp argued, as she has previously, that the Diebold voting machines are susceptible to tampering. She said the city officials could decide what system to use in 2007.

"Please do so because our election will be more trustworthy if we cast our votes on paper," she said, adding that smaller cities would save money on Election Day if they choose another voting system.

City Councilors were interested and requested another discussion, likely sometime in early 2007. The elected officials, though, did not commit to a different system, saying that they had not been properly briefed.

The disputed Diebold machines energized what would likely have been a mundane contest for the clerk’s office. The incumbent, Sue Follett, lost in a primary and Dopp’s persistent criticism of the voting machines made the campaign a highlight on the ballot.

Dopp and others are worried that the Diebold machines can easily be tampered with, potentially allowing someone to rig an election. There were not allegations of Election Day shenanigans locally and lots of voters said the touch-screen machines were easy to use.

In an Election Day oddity, though, the fringe Personal Choice Party received an unexpectedly high number of straight-party votes. Afterward there was speculation that voters were confused and believed that they were choosing to cast ballots contest by contest when they selected the Personal Choice Party.

Dopp alleged on Thursday night that some Diebold-manufactured machines failed elsewhere on Election Day and that some counted ballots twice.

City Councilman Roger Harlan said he was worried that the publicity the machines drew in 2006, "conspiracy theories," according to him, might have hurt voter turnout. He argued paper-ballot voting is susceptible to fraud as well.

"I’m very concerned that we don’t have balance," he said, comparing the bad publicity and turnout.

Before the touch-screen machines, City Hall used a punch-card voting system, meaning someone would select their candidates by punching a hole in a card next to their name. A machine would then count the votes.

The state selected the touch-screen machines to comply with federal legislation adopted after the disputed 2000 presidential election.

Three City Council spots are on the 2007 ballot in Park City, now held by Marianne Cone, Candy Erickson and Joe Kernan. There has been little talk about the campaign and candidate filing does not open until the summer. The last Park City election, in 2005, drew few candidates and voter turnout was terrible.

In an interview, Dopp said she prefers City Hall pick "anything that’s a paper ballot" for the election, such as the punch cards or a bubble ballot that is counted on an optical scanner.

"Any time you have an electronic, invisible ballot, there are more ways to have errors in the vote count, undetected errors," she said.


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