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County clerk's office experiences minor glitches in election process

Sun Advocate publisher

Gene House and Ben Martinez remove the paperwork and the memory card from an electronic voting machine last Tuesday night after the polls closed. Poll workers were responsible for all the materials, printed paper canisters and memory cards that came out of the machines. Once the election materials were removed and the machines were sealed, the information was taken to the county clerk's office for processing.

While several locations in Utah experienced problems with the touch screen voting machines used for the first time in a general election in the state, Carbon County officials encountered few glitches in the operating the machines last Tuesday.

"All together, we had 73 machines out in the field today," said county clerk/auditor Robert Pero on Nov. 7 as the 2006 election returns started to come into his office to be counted. "It looks like all of them performed well and we had no real problems."

However, several local polling places encountered a few minor complications, although none of the problems had to do with the electronic voting process.

Workers at the Carbon County courthouse were in the office until almost midnight, not tallying ballots, but rectifying some problems in physical voter counts made by poll judges as opposed to the numbers registered on the machines.

Poll judges had to decommission the machines by removing the paper ballot and memory cards, then sealing the units before they could bring the information into the county clerk's office.

The process took time, even though many of the polling judges had some practice at the primary election last summer when the machines were first used.

After arriving at the county clerk's office, most of the polling judges had positive comments about the machines.

There were more complaints about Carbon County residents who didn't understand that they needed to be registered to vote than about the equipment.

"Some of the counties in the state experienced difficulties with their machines," said Pero. "One county didn't allow Diebold to send representatives into the area to help today and that was the county that had the most problems."

Pero was referring to Utah County, where officials decided to complete the election process alone.

One place in Utah County reported that, when the doors opened, the electronic machines were not functioning at all. The polling workers couldn't get the equipment up and running until 9 a.m., at which point a lot of voters had left because they could not wait any longer.

"We had no problems like that here," stated Pero.

Carbon County had five "rovers" from Diebold, the manufacturer of the voting machines, who helped out at the various polling places when there were questions or problems with the equipment.

One problem reported locally was that the machines timed out in a few cases and locked voters out of the machines.

Poll workers then had to update the voters' cards and restart the balloting process.

Pero said the machines time out when nothing is entered for about a 90 seconds, so some voters experienced that difficulty.

The machines beep before timing out. But one local poll worker told the Sun Advocate that, when the soft beeping happened, there was enough noise in the area and people did not hear the sound.

Once the information and records were checked at the county clerk's office, the packet with the memory cards was passed into a special locked room and the votes were downloaded.

"We took a part of our office and remodeled it so there is a special room for counting the votes," said deputy clerk Alexis Horsley. "The state requires us to have a separate and special server to do this process."

The votes contained on the memory cards were and the tabulations showed up on the county's Web site in a few minutes.

"It was a good day," concluded Horsley. "This is a great way to do an election."

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