Utah GOP convention going electronic, but not without controversy

Published: Monday, April 16 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

Drew Chamberlain, state GOP secretary who often has been a burr in the party's saddle, won't settle for anything but paper balloting, no matter how inconvenient it is.

"At least it's a trusted system," Chamberlain said. "I will never trust any form of electronic voting."

State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, dismissed Jenkins and Chamberlain as representing a small, disruptive faction of the party that is constantly seeking to cause trouble.

The high turnout to caucuses this year means that up to 80 percent of delegates will be new to the convention, he noted.

"As a faithful member of the Utah Republican Party, I'm getting very annoyed with Drew Chamberlain and Brian Jenkins," Weiler said. "As a party insider, (Chamberlain is) trying to undermine these new delegates' faith in the system. I just find that so offensive on so many levels. It's not like there are evil forces at work to steal elections."

With 4,000 delegates this year — up from 3,500 the previous election — and some races with numerous candidates that could go six or seven rounds, "to try not to do that with electronic voting would be irresponsible," he added.

Because Jenkins is a candidate for federal office, Weiler claims he has broken federal election rules by sending the robo-calls without stating in the message who's paying for it. Weiler said he will file a complaint against Jenkins with the Federal Election Commission.

Jenkins responded that he paid for the robo-calls himself — about $75 — using Chamberlain's calling equipment. He said he doesn't know whether that violates federal rules.

"Since I'm the one sending it, it certainly would imply I'm paying for it," he said.

But Jenkins does see himself as a rebel against GOP insiders.

"I kind of expected something like that," he said, "the establishment to shut me down."

First-time delegate Judy Moore, a Taylorsville mother of four and a former microbiologist, said she received the robo-call at her home.

"Personally, I think (electronic balloting) might be good," Moore said.

It would speed up the process so fewer delegates would be tempted to leave before the final ballot is cast, she said. But the robo-call also gave her doubts.

"Am I willing to sacrifice security versus convenience? No," Moore said. "But it's word against word."

Another first-time delegate, Daryl Acumen, is a digital strategy analyst for Hewlett-Packard. Is he worried about the new devices?

"Of course not," the Cedar Hills resident said with a laugh. "To me, it's stupid. … It's really a dumb issue."

Though paper ballots may feel safer, he said, "we finally entered the 21st century."

E-mail: lbrubaker@desnews.com

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