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Despite some problems, Utahns continue to head to the polls

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 2 2010 2:04 p.m. MDT

Congressman Jim Matheson votes in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns continued to file into polling places Tuesday to cast their ballots in a crucial 2010 midterm election, despite several problems reported throughout the state.

Historically some of the lowest voter turnout rates are reported during midterm elections. But Utah's elections director Mark Thomas predicted up to a 60 percent turnout this year.

Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, said voter participation generally appeared to be strong in the morning, but slowed by the afternoon.

"There have been few problems reported to us on this Election Day as of 1 p.m. We are pleased to say that election officials have been very responsive and in some case have proactively reported the problems directly to us here at the Democratic Party," he said.

Among the problems elections and political leaders were facing include:

 Local school board candidates were left off the ballot in two precincts in Iron County. The candidates were later added to the appropriate ballots, according to Taylor. "However, there may have been some ballots cast in those two precincts that did not include the contest," he said.

 Heavy usage crashed the state's voter information website Monday night, preventing voters from looking up their voting location. The state's voter information website, vote.utah.gov, had so many hits on its server Monday night, the site just couldn't handle the traffic.

The Utah lieutenant governor's office said the server received 200,000 hits per second, causing the site to first crash around 8 p.m. That's not 200,000 people, but perhaps just frustrated users clicking multiple times on the site.

IT personnel were trying to fix the problem, and at one point they had it back up and working, but then it crashed again early Tuesday.

"In the past we have had a lot of people on our website. We know this is the one day out of the year that we will get a lot, but the good thing to know is that it is up now, we are watching it, we are monitoring it, we have put some extra hardware behind it; and I think we are in good shape," said state elections director Mark Thomas.

 In Utah County, card encoders not working properly prevented voters from using voting machines.

When the polls opened at 7 a.m., all of the 110 polling locations in Utah County were running into the same problem.

"It was the cards," said downtown Provo assistant poll manager Annie Erickson. "As soon as someone would put a card in (the voting machine), it wouldn't bring up the election; it would reject the card."

"We had a problem with the security card that is run through the encoders. It appears to be a programming glitch," said Utah County Clerk Auditor Bryan Thompson. "The poll managers instituted plan 'B' which was to go ahead and utilize one of the (voting) machines as an encoder."

Thompson says the problem was taken care of quickly at some polling locations, but took longer to correct at others.

The problem caused a residual delay, meaning long lines at many polling locations.

The county IT department that created the program for the cards was looking to find what caused the glitch.

At some polling locations voters were told to wait or asked to come back when the problem was fixed. Paper ballots were also given as an option in some locations.

"We just asked them to be patient," said Erickson. "They were very patient."

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