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A few glitches mar early voting in Salt Lake City
Deseret Morning News, 07 November 2006

Early voters on Election Day faced severe glitches in Utah County and less dramatic problems in Salt Lake County.

Utah County

Voters in more than 30 polling locations couldn't cast ballots early in the morning because of a problem with the state's new electronic voting system.

Election officials created a temporary solution and urged inconvenienced voters to return.

From Lehi to Payson, a small calculator-sized device that encodes plastic voter cards malfunctioned in approximately 32 of 118 polling locations.

The county elections manual included a temporary solution for the problem, Utah County Clerk Kim Jackson said. One voting machine was converted into an encoder, fixing the problem for the rest.

County elections staffers worked over the phone with various poll managers to walk them through the fix. After that, the affected locations had just one machine encoding the ballots instead of two, and one less voting machine in operation, which would have slowed balloting.

Jackson said the crew was working with the system supplier, Diebold Elections Systems, to determine what went wrong.

Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert told KSL Radio that the encoding machines were programmed incorrectly. Jackson called the statement "premature."

"That's not accurate," Jackson said Tuesday morning. "If he's saying that, he's in error."

Jackson said Diebold hadn't determined what the problem was, but acknowledged programming could have been the cause.

"It may end up that way," he added, "but at this point we're still baffled about what caused this problem."

Elections officials began to field calls at 7 a.m., as soon as the polls opened. Jackson said the temporary fix was in place at most locations by 8:30 a.m.

Some polling managers allowed voters to use paper "provisional" ballots until the problem was circumvented, but others did not.

Herbert said the correct procedure should have been to tell voters they could wait or that they could use a "provisional" ballot to cast their votes immediately instead.

Herbert noted that by Utah law, anyone who is standing in line by 8 p.m. must be allowed to vote no matter how long that takes. So Herbert said those who were unable to vote before work likely should be able to vote in the evening.

"It's 95 percent great news," Herbert said about reports of how well new electronic machines were working statewide. He did note, however, that "poll workers were a little behind in setting up things" when many polling places opened, leading to many voters leaving without voting in order to be at work on time.

Robert and Hazel Dawn Riggs were turned away at Suncrest Elementary School in Orem just after 7 a.m. They called the school later and were told they could return and use a provisional ballot, but by the time they arrived at about 10 a.m., the solution was in place and they used the electronic system to vote.

Voters told the Deseret Morning News they experienced problems at Rocky Mountain Elementary School in Lindon, the Harman Building at Brigham Young University and Peteetneet Museum in Payson.

Salt Lake County

Voters experienced several glitches, but apparently none were severe. Trouble starting the touch-screen voting machines and access problems for disabled voters topped the list.

At the Highland High School polling station, only one of eight voting machines was working by 7 a.m., when voting began. Long lines resulted, with one election official saying up to 75 citizens were waiting to vote.

"We're supposed to have at least one machine up and running by 7 o'clock, which we did," said Stan Syphus, touch screen technician. The rest were doing their jobs by 8 or 8:30 a.m., he said.

Asked why all machines were not working by 7 a.m., he said poll workers would have had to get up about "3 a.m. to do that."

They needed to go through 40 steps to get each machine working, Syphus said. "You've got to print two reports" for each, he added, and the reports must be signed.

"The first machine is always the most difficult because you're learning all over again," and the rest are easier to initiate, he said.

"No one was turned away that I know of."

People who asked for them were given paper ballots. Leanne Maynes, an election judge at the school, said four paper ballots were given voters, two of them to people who were tired of waiting to use the touch-screen machines.

At Liberty Adventure Church, 700 East and 1300 South, a voter believed the voting machines were in error and that they showed a legislative district other than his own.

"We checked all three ballot types," said Dayle Record, poll manager. It turned out the ballots were correct, but the man had not realized redistricting had occurred and he was now in a different legislative district.

Also at that polling location, a man called a polling judge over to show a problem with the computer screen. Type was not showing up on part of the screen.

"The typing of the top part of Proposition 2 didn't print," said Linda Powell, touch screen technician. "The top part isn't there, and it should be."

Record said the printing problem was fixed.

Voter access

Alison Draper, an advocate at the Disability Law Center, 205 N. 400 West, said volunteers had checked the state's polling places in the past two weeks to ensure the disabled would have access. "Today we're focusing specifically on the Wasatch Front," she said Tuesday.

A number of problems were discovered during the two weeks, she added. On Tuesday, she said, "There's an improvement, but we're still seeing issues all over the place."

The biggest problem statewide is parking for disabled people, she said.

"There's just not adequate accessible parking. Either there's not signs indicating this is an accessible parking spot or, if there are signs, they're often not connected to an accessible route into the building."

"A lot of counties have made significant effort," Draper said. Two years ago, the center checked more than 300 polling locations throughout Utah "and not one was (disability) accessible."

There has been much improvement since then, she added.

A survey last week in Uintah and Duchesne counties showed "probably at least a third are now accessible. There may be more."

In Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake County clerk's staff had moved several polling locations because of lack of accessibility. "They made a huge effort to visit all of those polling locations," she said.

But on Tuesday, at one election station near the downtown, "Yes, there was parking. Yes, there was a way to get into the building without the stairs."

But the door that was supposed to be accessible was locked, Draper said. A disabled person knocked, then pounded on the door. The person "couldn't ring the doorbell because it was too high."

Alerted to the problem, poll workers propped open a back door open to allow access.

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