What initially sounded like a case of voting machine vandalism early Tuesday morning at a polling station in Salt Lake City’s Avenues area turned out to be a case of innocent “voter error.”
Still, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said, her staff was trying to locate a woman voting at an LDS Church building at 2nd Avenue and G Street who thought she was entitled to a “receipt.”
“She just wasn’t going to leave without one, either, so she got hold of the paper and just started pulling on it. She was determined,” Swensen said.
By Tuesday afternoon, elections officials had narrowed down the woman to one of four voters who used the machine. Swensen said her staff was trying to contact her, since she took the wad of paper — meant as a backup record of cast votes.
However, Swensen said she had determined that the only vote on the backup paper roll was the woman’s own ballot. “The previous votes had already spooled up inside the machine by the time she voted,” Swensen said.
In any event, the paper record is a secondary source, election officials stressed, with votes first being recorded electronically.
Still, Swensen said her staff was still investigating the incident. “We’re hoping to retrieve the paper from her when we find her,” she said.
Dave Shaw, a 43-year-old electrician, said he witnessed the incident about 7:15 a.m. He said when he arrived, about 16 people had voted ahead of him. As he neared the front of the line, he saw the woman in one of the half-dozen booths “open up the machine and tear out about four feet of paper.
“She folded up the paper and walked away, telling the [election staffers] that the machine was broken. Then she just walked out,” Shaw said.
Shaw said he told the staffers what he had witnessed, but they did not seem overly concerned. Shaw said “two or three” people likely had voted at that particular machine prior to the incident.