This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Since the 2000 presidential voting fiasco in Florida, ballot integrity has been a top priority for county clerks across the country.
In Salt Lake County, Democratic incumbent Sherrie Swensen still feels some growing pains over the transition to electronic-voting technology - she argues it is underfunded and there are too few machines - but as she runs for a fifth term, Swensen says the overall move has been a success.
Her opponent, Republican Carrie Dickson, isn't so sure. Dickson says Swensen's "sky is falling" attitude over the new Diebold machines has deterred would-be voters, and argues the office needs a positive approach after 16 years of Swensen.
"So much more can be done to make this office more visible - rather than highlight all the problems," Dickson says. "I'm not a crisis creator, I'm a problem preventer."
Swensen counters that her unprecedented voter-registration push, which includes registration drives at high schools, senior centers and community events, has brought legions of new voters into the democratic process.
"You name it - I'm everywhere they'll let me be to do this as an outreach effort," says Swensen, who also touts her early-voting and vote-by-mail efforts. "It's worked tremendously well."
But method and means is not the only issue muddying the contest for clerk: There also is that prickly problem of partisanship.
Both candidates argue the office should be nonpartisan - Dickson has accused Swensen of unfairly aiding Democrats - but bring different perspectives on how to order the ballot.
Swensen, who places Democrats first, notes the Legislature mandates the choice on how to list candidates, and she insists suggestions to alternate candidates have fallen flat. The reason, she says, is that state lawmakers would have to make such a change across Utah, where GOP clerks outnumber Democrats overall.
"I don't think it's really a perk," she says. "It really, truly doesn't make a difference."
Swensen says the ballot-bias issue has been used as a "political battering ram," while making a change would be "fine with me," should the Legislature give the green light.
Dickson insists the new voting machines could customize ballots - allowing voters to pick the candidate order. For instance, she says individuals could select whether they want Democrats first, Republicans, incumbents, or a mix.
"If we can make them random, why don't we make them customized to the voter," she says. "That would be so cool." Swensen argues she already is using technology to help voters through a revamped Web site. That tool - http://www.slco.org - allows people to check registration status, polling places and view sample ballots, she notes.
But Dickson says there could be better data management, and she argues that voters are confused by changes in polling locations. To boost turnout, information should be sent to voters sooner, she insists.
Libertarian Charles Bonsall and the Personal Choice's Lawrence Rey Topham also are challenging Swensen.
* AGE: 58
* PARTY: Democrat
* FAMILY: Divorced after 20 years; two children, seven grandchildren
* EDUCATION: Attended Salt Lake Community College
* CAREER: Realtor, two years; social service administration, four years; director of administration, Democratic state headquarters, five years
* POLITICAL: Salt Lake County Clerk since 1991
* INTERESTING FACT: Was president of Hillcrest Youth Football League and vice president of Ute Conference Little league football program
* AGE: 50
* PARTY: Republican
* FAMILY: Married; two children
* EDUCATION: Associate's degree from Weber State University
* CAREER: Legal assistant for 26 years for two major law firms
* POLITICAL: 10 years on Mount Olympus Community Council
* INTERESTING FACT: Recently learned how to scuba dive
Other Salt Lake County races
For auditor, GOP incumbent Sean Thomas faces Democrat Jeff Hatch.
Thomas was recruited by the Republican Party from the private sector in 2004 to serve out the term of Craig Sorensen, who resigned following a gas-stealing scandal, and is gunning for his first full term. The 35-year-old has a working background in real estate and finance and a degree in accounting, which he argues is well-suited for the office.
If re-elected, Thomas says his priority is to make the county's property tax system transparent for taxpayers.
Hatch, a 59-year-old financial planner, has served as chief financial officer for KUTV, the Ogden Standard-Examiner and KALL Radio, which his family formerly owned. If elected, Hatch pledges greater cooperation with Mayor Peter Corroon's administration. He says he would work to keep audits nonpartisan and improve the county's antiquated financial records system.
In other county races, Treasurer Larry Richardson, a Republican, squares off against Democrat Billie Gay Larson and Libertarian Kelton Baker.
Assessor Lee Gardner, a Republican, faces Democrat Josie Valdez. Republican Recorder Gary Ott faces Democrat Leslie Reberg. And, Reid Demman, the county's GOP chief deputy surveyor, is running unopposed to succeed surveyor Vaughn Butler, who is not seeking re-election.
(The Voter Information Pamphlet for the Nov. 7 election is available on the county's Web site: http://www.slco.org)