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Up to clerk to audit election returns

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Voters shouldn’t be surprised that so far Summit County employees are almost the only people in the area who have voted in the run up to a primary election June 27.

The Utah Legislature this year made it possible for regular ballots to be cast two weeks prior to elections.

But Summit County citizens must drive to Coalville to vote.

"It’s brand new," Summit County Clerk Sue Follett said Friday. "We’ve been at it for four days and it’s low turnout."

About 35 people showed up this week to vote using Summit County’s controversial new touch-screen machines made by Diebold.

Meanwhile, Follett was criticized for not manning polling stations for early voting in western Summit County and Kamas.

"We chose to have it in Coalville only," she said, adding that employees at the Marsac Building, Summit County commissioners and state Rep. David Ure complained about the procedure. "[County commissioners] were concerned we didn’t have something at the Richins Building and at the Marsac Building."

Registered voters can cast ballots early at the courthouse at 60 North Main in Coalville until June 23 at 4:30 p.m.

Voters are casting ballots this year by touching a computer screen, much different from the punch-card ballot system used previously in Summit County.

Early voting began Tuesday as Summit County commissioners were investigating whether they could audit results from the upcoming primary election.

"It will prove the accuracy or the inaccuracy of the Diebold machines," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said.

But Summit County Chief Civil Deputy Attorney David Thomas cautioned elected representatives not to audit election returns unless the outcome of a race is contested.

"This area of law is unsettled and there are no binding legal cases which would give direction as to the legality of an audit where there has been no election contest or recount," Thomas wrote in memo to the County Commission. "Consequently, the safest course of action would be not to conduct an audit without express statutory authority to do so."

Still, Park City resident Kathy Dopp insists county officials should have results from the vote machines audited independently. Dopp often criticizes Diebold machines for alleged election irregularities.

"Doing an independent audit is really, really important," Dopp said.

She suggests appointing citizens from Summit County to serve on a committee to review the paper ballots the touch-screen machines generate.

"I have a problem with [Follett] being the one conducting the audit," Dopp said. "It has to be independent."

But, according to Thomas, Follett must decide whether to audit the election returns.

"I wouldn’t mind at all, then I could prove my faith in the system," Follett said.

However, she hadn’t made a decision Friday.

"I haven’t finalized any of my questions with the attorney’s office," Follett said during a telephone interview.

The Utah Republican Party will conduct a closed primary this month in which only registered Republicans can participate.

According to Follett, unaffiliated voters can register as Republicans on the day of the election to vote in closed races.

The Democratic Party primary is open to all voters.

Contact the Summit County Clerk’s Office at 615-3204 for more information.


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