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Voting machines first time out will be primary

Sun Advocate publisher

Alexis Horsley, deputy county clerk, watches as a citizen uses the touch screen feature of a new electronic voting machine during a preview period at Active ReEntry last week. The new machines will be used in both the primary and general elections this year.

Some big changes in voting are coming this year and Carbon County will be one of the first places that those changes will be tried out in the state of Utah.

The reason? Carbon is one of the few places where there will be a primary election of any kind and may be the only area where a local primary is conducted.

The first and largest change is the use of computerized voting machines. Despite the controversy that has taken place in Emery County, Carbon County clerk Bob Pero says things are full steam ahead for the use of the machines in Carbon.

"It will be a new day for the electoral process," said Pero as he stood in the Active ReEntry building near the fairgrounds last week during a demonstration of the machines for people with disabilities. "Everything will be easier and more accurate with these machines in place."

Pero should know. He spent three years on former Lt. Governor Oleen Walker's committee to choose what kinds of voting machines Utah should use in their elections.

And just recently, Pero was selected as the Democratic representative for the state of Utah to go to Washington, D.C., and work with the United States Elections Assistance Commission Standards Board on the national use of the machines.

The boards were established by an act of congress called the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and it provides for the establishment of two boards to advise the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the EAC Standards Board and the EAC Board of Advisors.

Pero's appointment came from Lt. Governor Gary Herbert.

The standards board (acting through its executive board) and the board of advisors review proposed voluntary voting system guidelines and EAC technical guidance. They play a role in recommending candidates for the EAC Executive Director. They also may conduct hearings and take testimony related to carrying out the provisions of the Help America Vote Act.

The EAC Standards Board is composed of 110 members drawn from state and local election officials. Terms of service for standards board members are not specified.

The Help American Vote Act of 2002 also awards grants to states to help them with technological advances in voting.

In recent years the state of Utah has received $25 million with Carbon County getting $300,000 of that for voting machines.

"It's always been hard for many people with disabilities to vote," said Pero as he helped a woman with vision problems test out a machine. "With this election all voting places must be ADA [American Disabilities Act] compliant."

A citizen tests out one of the machines set up for people with disabilities at Active ReEntry last week. Every polling place will have a machine that can be used by voters with disabilities and that meets ADA requirements.

This year the primary election will occur on June 27 and Carbon voters will have only one office to vote for: the county recorders position where two democrats, Sharon Murdock and Vikki Barnett, are running two Democrats, Sharon Murdock and Vikki Barnett, are running against one another.

The general election will take place on Nov. 7.

"This move to voting machines has been a long time coming and there has been a lot of planning for it," said Pero. "It will make things much better."

Other changes that Pero indicated will be taking place are movements of polling places and how residents of Scofield will cast their ballots.

"Because of some logistical problems for many voters we are moving the polls out of College of Eastern Utah's Jennifer Leavitt Student Center and Computer Business Building," noted Pero. "This year those that voted at those locations before will go to the school district offices [the old Westridge Middle School] to cast their ballots."

Scofield residents will no longer have a polling place, but will cast their ballots either by coming to the county clerk's office or by mail.

"We have been having a harder and harder time getting election judges each time to run the Scofield polls," stated Pero. "That's why we have decided to go to a mail-in ballot. Or they can come to our office to vote during the early voting period."

That early period for the primary election will be anytime from June 13 through June 23. This has changed from the way it was in the past because of laws passed by the state legislature this year.

Citizens can register to vote up to seven days before the primary elections.

As for the new electronic voting machines, they will be in every polling place this year. Citizens who want to try the machines before they are used in the official election can still get a preview of the machines, but they don't have many opportunities to do so.

"We will be having another demonstration at the East Carbon Senior Citizen Center on June 7," said Alexis Horsley on Wednesday morning. "We also will demonstrate it for any groups that would like us to show the machines to them."

Horsley said the demonstration at Active ReEntry was a big success and that many of the people who came there were excited that they will be able to vote this year.

"We also did a demo at the Price Senior Citizens Center, and those that tried the machines liked them. Unfortunately there were some that didn't want to try them," she noted.

Regardless, the machines will be the reality of voting in Carbon County on June 27. Judges will be trained on the machines and will be there to assist voters with the new way of casting their ballots.

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