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Is this trip necessary?: The People's Republic of China almost did a big favor for the Republican (and Democratic) Peoples of Utah this past week, threatening to turn Utah House Speaker Greg Curtis away because he'd forgotten to get a visa before showing up as part of Gov. Jon Huntsman's trade mission. If the Chinese government had stuck to its rules, then the speaker might have come home, convened the Legislature's Executive Appropriation Committee, moved along the process of selecting projects to be funded by the proposed quarter-cent sales tax hike that will be on the Nov. 7 Salt Lake County ballot and allowed voters to know before the election what they are being asked to pay for. But no. Huntsman pulled some strings to get Curtis and his wife through customs. This key legislative job will remain undone. Curtis now owes the governor a big favor. We hope he is wise in how he collects.

The paper trail: One big reason for all the mistrust and conspiracy theories attached to the Diebold Election Systems machines that will be used in Utah Nov. 7 is that, in many of the other states where they will be used, there is no paper record of the ballots that are cast. If someone has reason to think the vote count is wrong, there's no way to cross-check the machines' memory cards. The good news is that, in Utah, the machines do produce a paper tape of each ballot cast. More good news is that, just in time for the Nov. 7 election, Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert has set standards for recount procedures and announced that county election officials will use that paper trail to spot-check a sample of 1 percent of the state's new voting machines. The new touch-screen machines might be a boon to democracy, but only if the people trust them.