I recently read a letter that criticized our system of voting and said it is time for electronic ballots and ballots by mail and that our processes are behind the times. As Salt Lake County Clerk, I oversee the Election Department and I would like to respond to these comments.
Electronic voting options are being explored, such as voting on the Internet, or even voting by telephone. The problems that need to be solved before these can be implemented are related to security and no one has the solutions at this time. Better technology will be required to ensure that the person voting is who he says he is and a paper trail must be established. Computer hackers who can even break into the National Defense System could certainly manipulate results.Of course, it is possible to conduct elections by mail and I have met with U.S. Postal Service personnel to discuss this. The state law would have to be changed to allow this. Currently, the law allows people to vote absentee if they cannot get to their polling location in person because of physical impairment or being absent from their precinct on election day. We must compare signatures for absentee voters with that of the absentee applicant to ensure that the person who actually voted on the ballot is the same person who applied. Signatures would have to be checked for the same reason if we conduct entire elections by mail. In Oregon, some small by-mail elections have been conducted, and the signature of the voter must be matched with that of the registered voter. Checking signatures for the number of voters who participate in a general election (more than 300,000) would indeed be labor intensive. Also, an individual's signature may change over the years - and that pre-sents another problem.
While it seems that our process is behind the times, it is still being used in all the jurisdictions in the country because the alternatives have not yet been perfected. I am anxiously awaiting a better solution, and I will continue to research all possibilities, as I want to make voting more convenient and encourage more participation.
Salt Lake County Clerk