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Utah 'generally good' in handling voting problems

Published July 25, 2012 6:31 pm

Elections • Utah does OK in a watchdog's review of procedures.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Utah has "generally good" plans to catch and handle voting machine malfunctions, but many states need improvement as the national presidential elections approach.

That's according to a report looking at conditions in all states, released Wednesday by the watchdog group Common Cause, the Verified Voting Foundation and the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic.

"Errors will always occur when any type of machine is involved. For this reason, having paper records, audits and other safeguards that can provide an independent check on the election results is an essential part of ensuring confidence in voting process," said Susannah Goodman of Common Cause.

For example, the report said that in the last presidential election, 1,800 voting machine problems were reported nationwide that ranged from serious — such as some West Virginia machines that were counting votes that had been cast for Barack Obama as cast instead for John McCain — to minor, including breakdowns that caused long lines.

The report said preparation in six states is "good"; in 24 states, it is "generally good"; in 17 states, it "needs improvement"; and in three states it is "inadequate."

The report said it found Utah has procedures in place for replacing machines that fail on election day, and has paper ballots available at most polling place to handle breakdowns — but does not allow using them to alleviate long lines, which the study suggests should be allowed.

The report dislikes one aspect of how Utah audits votes counted by a machines. It randomly selects a certain percentage of machines for detailed audits comparing votes counted by machines to written records they create. The problem is, the report said, state law allows the audits of machine performance to occur before the elections, instead of afterward to measure actual performance.