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Posted: 8:55 PM- Evening polling appeared to go more smoothly across Utah than it had when the polls opened Tuesday, enough so that a Fourth District Court judge denied a request to extend voting hours in Utah County, where voters experienced many problems with the state's new touch-screen voting machines
Election officials say a problem with voter cards affected 112 out of 118 Utah County polling locations, causing many to open late and resulting in significant delays at others.
The Election Protection Coalition, a voter advocacy organization, filed suit on behalf of Galen Downing, a Woodland Hills man who claimed he had been unable to vote due to the problems.
State Courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said the motion to keep the polls open until 10 p.m. was dismissed when Judge Samuel McVey determined that that the motion had not established voters had been denied access to voting.
Cindy Cohn, a lawyer who works with the coalition said the suit was one of several filed by her organization across the country on Tuesday.
A similar request was granted in Delaware County, Ind., where parallel problems prevailed this morning. Another such plea was turned down in Denver.
Problems were reported throughout the country Tuesday as new touch-screen voting machines were put to the test for the first time. In Utah, problems were reported across the state, with particular troubles occurring in conservative Utah County.
Voters at the Utah County Health and Justice Building in Provo were given provisional ballots when poll workers couldn't get their machines working in the early morning. With just one traditional-style booth available for the paper balloting, voters were left to improvise on nearby tables and atop the closed covers of the digital machines.
Voter Robert Nelson spent 90 minutes hoping poll workers could fix the problem so he could vote, but ultimately gave up waiting.
"The workers were earnestly trying to get the machines to work, but not a one in our precinct worked," Nelson said. "I work in Salt Lake City, so I couldn't wait for the machines to work."
At his precinct at Tooele High School, Frank Musgrave said he was frustrated by a machine that continually registered votes for candidates and issues he didn't want to vote for. "When I'd touch the screen for yes or no, for Democrat or Republican, it would record the lower one even though I was touching the lower one," Musgrave said. "It several times for the machine to get it right."
Chief among the concerns of many voters and poll workers throughout the state was confusion created by the logo of the relatively obscure Personal Choice Party - a yellow happy-face symbol - which a number of voters apparently took to be the button that would allow them to bypass the straight party voting option in favor of making their own choices.
Early returns showed the Personal Choice Party had garnered nearly a tenth of the straight party votes - more than seven times the number of votes gathered by four other minor parties combined.
By mid-morning, Mary Beth Vogel-Ferguson, an election judge at the Applied Technology Center in Salt Lake City, had responded to 15 voters who wanted help after mistakenly giving the Personal Choice Party their straight party endorsement. Vogel-Ferguson noted there may have been more who didn't ask for help.
"It is just an oddity," said Mary Beth Vogel-Ferguson, an election judge at the Applied Technology Center in Salt Lake City. "All they would need to do is add the word 'party' after each one, you know, 'Republican Party,' 'Democratic Party,' 'Personal Choice Party.'"
Also disconcerting to voting watchdogs was the lack of lists, at some precincts, of individuals who had cast votes at early voting stations.
Poll workers received lists of those who took advantage of early voting, but those lists did not include people who cast their ballots after Friday.
Vogel-Ferguson said that meant some voters could have voted twice.
Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swenson said she would check on the problem, but stressed that anyone who did manage to vote twice would be found and prosecuted.
That worries Ray Agutter, who admits he voted twice to make a point. The retired Salt Lake City resident said he voted Friday at an early polling location and then, to test the system, went to his official precinct on Monday where he told four poll workers what he intended to do.
"I told each one, 'I'm going to vote twice,' and not one of them stopped me," Agutter said.
At Hillside Junior High in the East Bench area of Salt Lake City, poll workers arrived at 6 a.m. to begin preparing the machines, but had only managed to get two of the precinct's nine machines up and running by the time voters arrived at 7 a.m. Poll manager Georgia Gates said the machines were working by 8 a.m., though some citizens - including several who never returned the digital access cards - had left without voting by that time.
Davis County voter Sydney Husseman reported that several voters at Whiteside Elementary School in Layton received "error" messages when they inserted the voter access card into the machines. And one man, she said, had to start his voting procedure over when the machine apparently canceled his votes as he stopped to think about one candidate.
"I was only there for a few minutes," Husseman said. "There were no lines but there were three or four people who were all having problems."
In an age of technology, some problems came down to old-fashioned expectations about how voting should be conducted. Salt Lake County voter Paula Massey said the machines at her precinct were set up in a row with screens facing the area where voters were waiting.
"However you were voting, people could read it," she said. "I certainly didn't feel comfortable with that."
No voting machines were initially operational at Highland High School in Salt Lake City, although some 25 people were already waiting in line to vote when the location opened. One machine was up and running shortly after 7 a.m., but it took until 7:30 a.m. for three machines to be ready for use.
"I don't know how the machines run," polling place manager Lohree Nielsen told a Salt Lake Tribune editor waiting in line to vote as her assistant worked on the machines.
Some voters were purposefully staying away from the electronic voting machines - scared off by fears that the machines could be hacked into or would not accept the vote as intended.
Democrat Pete Ashdown, who is challenging GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, wrote on his blog that he voted by paper. "Being a candidate with a computer background causes a frequent question about voting that I happily answer, 'Paper and pencil,'" Ashdown wrote.
About one third of all American voters were encountering electronic machines for the first time and glitches were commonplace throughout the nation.
But Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah's top election official, said problems faced by voters - which he blamed on human error -- were quickly addressed and most precincts were running fine by early afternoon.
"It's 95 percent all good," Herbert said. "The glass is more than half full. This has been well received. We've had glitches but every election cycle has had some problems."
Indeed, voters in many locations reported no trouble, no lines and general happiness with the new machines.
Voting went smoothly at Edgemont Elementary School in Sandy, where voter Kristi Florence decided she liked the new touch-screen system, even if it was a bit difficult to figure out at first.
"I'm 56 and kind of mentally, you know challenged, but I think it's easier," Florence joked.
At the West Jordan Library, Peggy Black, a poll worker for 15 years, said her precinct had seen more than 100 voters by 10 a.m. with no problems.
"I think some people are interested to see how the machines work," she said. "The younger voters seem faster, but it's only taking about 3 to 5 minutes to vote."
For Everette Bacon, it was a welcome change from elections past. Bacon, who is blind, took advantage of the audio option on the machine - allowing him to vote without assistance for the first time.
"It was great," said Bacon, who also used the touch-screen machines in the primary election earlier this year. "I had no problem at all."
Another rush of voters - and another series of tests for the new machines - is expected at 5 p.m. today.
Herbert noted that state law mandates that any voter who makes it to their polling location by 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
Reporting: Matthew D. LaPlante, Elizabeth Neff, Thomas Burr, Matt Canham, Michael Limon, Glen Warchol, Dana Rimington, Julie Espinosa, Lynda Percival and Tabatha Deans.