Do Ohio voting machine problems spell trouble in Utah?

Published August 28, 2006 4:09 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated.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: 4:16 PM- A recent Ohio election study has raised questions about the accuracy of results from Diebold voting machines, but officials and experts are confident Utah's stringent procedures and training will provide solid election results.

The three-month study of Cleveland's Cuyahoga County May primary election, done by the San Francisco-based Election Science Institute, found vote counts in the machines' electronic memory in many cases did not match results on the paper-receipt backups, often by 25 votes or more. ESI says such discrepancies could be disasterous in close election.

Utah's Diebold Elections Systems machines use the same technology as Cuyahoga County, including printing a backup to a paper spool similar to a cash register tape. That paper backup was the source of most of Cuyahoga's problems when it was torn or failed to print.

ESI's report this month warned Cuyahoga's election system "exhibits shortcomings with extremely serious consequences, especially in the event of a close election. These shortcomings merit urgent attention.

Relying on this system in its present state should be viewed as a calculated risk. . . . " "What we've really found is errors in how all this stuff works together in the hands of regular election people," said ESI's founder Steven Hertzberg. "There are some things that are not matching - that's disconcerting. We don't know yet exactly why that is occurring." Utah election officials say while Cuyahoga County and Utah use the same technology, Utah's training and election procedures - which ESI found key to accurate voting and recounts - are superior. Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen says Utah studied Ohio's voting to prepare for its June 27 primary. "From seeing the problems they had, we may have even over prepared," Swensen says of the intensified training and procedures done in Salt Lake County.

"It's important to note that Cuyahoga County has been screwing up elections for decades and this is nothing different," Lt. Governor Gary Herbert's chief of staff Joe Demma said. "Here, we are doing all we can to train folks and support the counties to train them." Davis County Clerk Steve Rawlings conducted an audit shortly after Utah's June primary. The ballot-by-ballot paper results from a sample of machines paralleled electronic tallies. "They matched perfectly," he said. Utah County also checked its electronic vote with the same flawless result.

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