This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
County election workers are going low-tech to double check the state's first high-tech general election.
Under a statewide audit policy to ensure public confidence in new Diebold touch-screen voting machines, the paper backups in 1 percent of the state's 7,500 machines will be hand-counted and compared with the machine's electronic memory cards to check vote-by-vote accuracy.
In Salt Lake County, voting officials started Monday, using improvised wooden spooling devices to handle the yards-long paper backups that resemble cash-register tapes. Each tape, stored in a sealed canister, serves as a record of about 100 ballots.
"It's a real low-tech solution, but it works really well," County Elections Director Julio García said of the wooden spoolers. Low-tech is an understatement for the gizmos, made of a stack of pine two-by-fours with a couple of spool holders cannibalized from spare Diebold canisters.
County Information Technology Manager Mark Pemberton cobbled together a spooler prototype, then the county's facilities department mass-produced it. "It takes a village to put on an election," García joked.
Even with the cunning device, García figures it will take two days for nine two-person teams to roll through the tapes from 30 Diebold machines, comparing the votes against the electronic result.
"There probably will be human errors" in reconciling some of the spools, García said, "and we'll just have to start all over again and work it out."
The machines record the ballots in three places: the memory card, on an internal hard drive and on the paper register that is visible for the voter to examine.
The policy, issued shortly before the general election by Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, requires the 1 percent audit after every statewide or multicounty election - or one machine for every state House race, whichever number is larger. The policy also includes procedures for recounts in close races.
"The policy was put in place to give the public another measure of confidence that their vote was counted accurately and securely," said Herbert spokesman Joe Demma.
Every county must complete the audit before the meeting of canvassers who will certify the election. The policy was implemented after June's primary election - the first with the Diebold machines. A handful of legislative elections may be close enough to require recounts.