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Delegates will settle GOP e-voting tiff, if court doesn't first

Published April 18, 2012 10:44 am

Politics • Republican Party moves ahead with electronic voting system, but delegates will have final say.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A dispute over whether electronic devices are a secure way to vote for Republican nominees at the party's state convention this week appears headed for court after a brief and contentious meeting Tuesday.

Utah Republican Party Executive Director Ivan Dubois said it will be up to Republican delegates to decide how they want to vote at the party convention Saturday — either through a new electronic system or by using paper ballots.

After the party's election committee held a cursory discussion of the issue Tuesday afternoon, opponents of the electronic voting — including Lowell Nelson, the party's vice chairman — were dismissed from the meeting.

Drew Chamberlain, the party secretary, who was participating through a conference call, said he was given 15 seconds to speak, then was hung up on.

"They just said 'We're going to do it the way we want to do it and nothing else matters,' " Chamberlain said. "This is just going to end up in lawsuits and they don't care, and it really upsets me."

The state party spent about $20,000 on an electronic voting system where delegates' votes can be entered and recorded instantly on a small key-card voting device.

Dubois said the goal is to speed up the process of whittling the field of candidates, which could realistically drag on until midnight Saturday if the time-consuming paper ballots are used.

In 2010, the convention wrapped up at around 5 p.m., but there were only 18 candidates and five races contested. This year, there are 51 candidates competing in 11 races. But delegates will get to decide how they want to vote.

"The facts on electronic voting will be presented to them and they will be able to make a decision on whether they want to use electronic voting or if they want to use paper ballots," Dubois said. "If they select paper balloting, then we'll move toward paper balloting."

Chamberlain said that paper balloting is the only way the voting should be done, because it's too easy to cheat an electronic system.

"I don't have any, any trust in electronic voting the way it's being done now and I don't think how anyone could. It's just ripe for fraud," Chamberlain said. "We're looking at the U.S. Senate. This is a big deal. We're not polling some group at a class at school."

Brian Jenkins, a Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, said he will file a lawsuit Wednesday morning trying to block the electronic voting, but isn't confident it will do any good.

"Our party has been hijacked," he said.