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Problems for voters in Utah County; some delays in Salt Lake

Published November 7, 2006 9:30 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Posted: 9:17 AM- Utah County voters planning to cast their ballots on the way to work were stymied by technical problems with voter cards used in the state's new voting machines, while some in Salt Lake City also saw delays at the polls.

Robert Nelson was among those in Provo and other locations in Utah County who were unable to cast their votes using the new voting machines when the polls opened. After arriving at his polling location at 7 a.m., Nelson said he spent an hour and a half hoping the machines would be fixed.

"The workers were earnestly trying to get the machines to work, but not a one in our precinct worked," Nelson said. "I work in Salt Lake City, so I couldn't wait for the machines to work."

Similar reports came in from other areas in Utah County, including Lindon. The clerk's office said the problem, which related to the cards voters were given to insert into voting machines, had been solved and the machines were up and running as of 8:55 a.m.

In Salt Lake City, some locations only had one machine up and running when the polls opened at 7 a.m.

No voting machines were initially operational at Highland High School, although some 25 people were already waiting in line to vote when the location opened. One machine was up and running shortly after 7 a.m., but it took until 7:30 a.m. for three machines to be ready for use.

"I don't know how the machines run," polling place manager Lohree Nielsen told a Salt Lake Tribune editor waiting in line to vote as her assistant worked to get the machines up and ready for use.

Salt Lake County Chief Deputy Clerk Jason Yocom said Nielsen might not know how the machine works internally, but that all poll workers were provided with hours of training and step by step guides to setting up the machines, including a DVD to watch. The clerk's office also hosted an open house where poll workers could come to practice setting up and taking down the equipment and work directly with trainers, he said.

"We expected lines during rush hour peak hours before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m.," said Yocom.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swenson said she prefers to have multiple machines up and running when polling locations open. "But if that's not physically possible, we tell them to always get the machines up one at a time," she said.

Swenson said some polling locations may be short-handed including the Highland location. As many as 50 poll workers quit at the last minute yesterday.

Also at Highland, confusion was compounded when half of the first eight people to vote realized they had been given the wrong ballot.

"I don't understand why the machines weren't up and running by 7 a.m.," said voter P.J. Pedersen. "If they didn't know how to run them, there should have been more training."

Robert and Janet Hopkins were also frustrated.

"They knew they were having problems from the get go," said Janet Hopkins. "You wonder why there weren't more classes, why there wasn't more training."

Other reports of voting machines not up and running by the time polls opened were coming in from Hillside Junior High School.There, voters reported, the voting cards they were given to use with the machines didn't work.

Swenson said she would look into the Hillside complaints.

Tribune business editor Michael Limon contributed to this report.