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Long lines at early voting centers this week may be a precursor to even worse Election Day frustrations, warns Salt Lake County's top election official.

"I'm concerned about lines Election Day - seriously," County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said Tuesday. "It's going to be a very busy day."

Voters in at least two early voting locations have complained of long waits as an estimated 30,000 voters statewide cast electronic ballots up to Friday. Salt Lake County voting officials, who oversee Utah's most populous county with 500,000 voters, hope for 20,000 to 25,000 voters to ultimately pick candidates early.

Turnout for early voting was far better than expected, Swensen said, but "that's just the tip of the iceberg. We still have another 250,000 people who could show up on Election Day."

Those voters will cast their votes on fewer than 3,000 touch-screen machines, compared with the 5,000 punch-card stations available in previous elections. The ballot is lengthy with some complicated issues that, combined with the new technology, could trip up voters on Nov. 7, she said.

"I am seriously worried about waiting lines on Election Day, and people getting frustrated," said Swensen. "Even if we have a good turnout at the early voting locations, we still have that many [fewer] machines."

Salt Lake County officials have been watching early voting closely. Although lines have been long at some early voting centers, particularly Sandy City Library and West Valley City Hall, the centers also are virtually empty at other times. "This is the first time, and we didn't know what to expect," Swensen said.

Tuesday voters at the Sandy library waited an hour to cast ballots.

"We thought we would be able to get through sooner if we voted early," said Robert Randolph of Cottonwood Heights. "This was the longest I've ever waited to vote."

Carla Hitz of Sandy said the long wait didn't detract from the pleasure of exercising her right. "I was thrilled to see so many people voting early," said Hitz. "I found it refreshing."

But election workers have seen an ominous pattern - voters taking an average of nine and a half minutes to vote.

"With the learning curve, we expected six and a half to seven minutes per voter," Swensen said. "I've heard of a few people taking a half hour."

The additional time spent at fewer machines does not bode well for lines on Election Day, Swensen fears.

In Utah County, elections coordinator Sandy Hoffmann said early voting has been going well and she did not expect significant delays on Election Day. Hoffmann calculated her voting machine needs based on a five-minute voting time but acknowledged she had yet to time actual voting. "I need to get out there this afternoon with my second hand," Hoffmann said.

Even clerks who foresee few problems this election are worried about the 2008 presidential election, when much larger numbers of voters will encounter a longer ballot.

"I think that we have enough machines to accommodate this election," said Weber County Elections Administrator Scott Hogensen. "It's the presidential election that is going to be the problem."

Joe Demma, spokesman for the Lieutenant Governor's Office, said the federal voting law that called for the machines was poorly crafted.

"The program is woefully underfunded," Demma said. "However, it's the lieutenant governor's job to carry out that job. We are doing the best we can in a very tough situation."

Swensen says she will need at least another 1,000 machines - at $3,000 each - to handle the presidential election.

"Where is the money going to come from - out of county taxpayers?" Swensen asked.

The federal government won't provide the money, Demma said, and "The Legislature has been very reluctant to get into funding county elections."

The savvy voter

Here are some suggestions to make voting go smoother

on Election Day.

* 1. Vote early and go to one of the less crowded early voting centers: Central City Recreation Center, 615 S. 300 East, or Northwest Recreation Center, 1300 W. 300 North. For more information:

* 2. Review the interactive voting instructions for the touch-screen machines available from the county clerk's office, library or online at

* 3. Study your voter information guide, available from your county clerk or library - with special attention to the constitutional amendment resolution - so you are prepared to cast your ballot.

* 4. Avoid peak voting times - 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. - on Election Day, if at all possible.