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Front Page » April 4, 2006 » Local News » Emery County election woes
Published 3,981 days ago

Emery County election woes

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Drew Kahl from Diebold Election Systems demonstrates how the voter card works in the election machine at a special session of the Emery County Commission.

With or without Emery County Clerk Bruce Funk the elections must go on.

A special meeting for the Emery County Commissioners was held on March 27 at 1 p.m. to discuss just how the election process would continue. Representatives from Diebold Election Systems and the Lt. Governor's office were on hand to answer any questions the county commissioners had.

The majority of the meeting was the closed door executive session with input from those involved. Before the meeting was closed, Clerk Funk said he would like to know what was being said as it involves him. He questioned as to whether as an elected official he was entitled to any council. County Attorney David Blackwell said he didn't know if that was needed and those involved would be invited to speak in the closed session. The meeting is to see what course of action is to take place with the election process. Commissioner Ira Hatch said the meeting is to determine where the county stands now with Diebold and the State in light of the recent testing Funk authorized with the Black Box Voting organization. When the meeting came back into the open public session, Drew Kahl, technician for Diebold answered Funk's questions concerning the machines. Funk had questions for the areas of concern he has with the machines these questions included: why low memory? why some with black screens? had any nonnative software been installed on the machines? are they new machines? why the differences in backup memory? what security measures do the machines have?

Diebold answered the questions to the commissioners satisfaction. Michael C. Cragun from the Lt. Governor's Office said all of these questions with the machines could have been answered with a phone call to Diebold or to the Lt. Governor's office. He is very agitated that the integrity of the Emery County election machines has been compromised by the choice of Funk to bring in independent testers. He feels Funk has gone outside of his jurisdiction.

Funk said the report from Black Box Voting will be forthcoming and he is very interested in the results from the tests conducted on the Emery County machines.

Commissioner Gary Kofford said it is unfortunate that Clerk Funk didn't make a phone call so this type of meeting could have been avoided.

Commissioner Hatch invited Kahl to demonstrate how the voting machines work. Kahl said the voter will be given a voter access card with the correct ballot information for the precinct the voter is from. The voter will touch the screen for the candidate of his choice and the information will be recorded in three different locations, on the paper-hard copy, on a flash memory card and another removable memory card. At the end of the election day, the election judge will collect the memory cards after doing a total which will be compared to the total on the election books where the voters check in.

Funk was interested in knowing if a macro could be installed into the computer if a voter/hacker/election judge/election worker had their own voter access card and could upload- information from a preloaded voter card with altered election information on it.

The Diebold representatives didn't see how this could happen if the county has trustworthy poll workers. Security PIN numbers will be changed for each election. Kahl said that once the machine has been loaded with the information needed for that election, it will reject any additional memory cards that someone might try to load later in the day.

Kahl said the paper jam issue that Funk mentions is not a problem, because a message will appear on the touchscreen which tells of the memory jam and that paper jam has to be taken care of before the machine will operate again, it also flashes a message when the paper supply is running low and paper must be changed before going on. Kahl said the machines are never hooked to the internet for transfer of election results at any time.

The supervisor card is encrypted. Reports from the machines will be stored for 22 months and kept with the memory card for that election.

The memory cards from each of the precincts will be uploaded to the GEM (global election machines) memory base for final tally.

Diebold machines have been used in Brigham City and Farmington in prior elections without any problems.

Diebold machines are also in use in Ohio, St. Louis, California, Virginia, Maryland, Florida and Wyoming.

Diebold will work with local printers to see that quality ballots are prepared for the election machines.

Cragun gave some background information on the process the state has gone through to reach the point we're at now. He said that the HAVA standards needed to be in place by Jan. 1, of this year. HAVA is the Help America Vote Act which Congress saw the need for after the election problems in 2002. Lt. Governor Olene Walker and later Gayle McKeachnie set up the committee on Utah Election reform. They met several times and decided a statewide uniform election system was the way to go. Utah sent out Requests for Proposals and two vendors answered those requests. Diebold Election Systems and ES&S. Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert came into the election process in Jan. of 2005, he reviewed the proposals with the committee and they came to a unanimous decision to award the contract to Diebold. In August of 2005, Lt. Gov. Herbert met with each of the 29 counties in Utah to introduce the counties to the new system. Emery County entered into a contract with the state stating its intention to use the Diebold machines.

Independent testing of the machines was authorized by the state of Utah. When the review was brought back the state reviewed the findings and entered into a contract with Diebold to purchase the system. The state purchased the machines to be given to the counties for use free of charge with the counties responsible for upkeep and storage on the machines.

Cragun explained that a couple of weeks ago, Funk allowed a third party unauthorized access to the machines, thus placing their integrity in jeopardy.

A citizen present stated that he thinks what's happened here is a good thing and that the questions asked by Clerk Funk should be answered and addressed. He felt like Cragun was squashing questions.

Cragun answered that he apologized if it appeared he was squashing questions, but he could have answered Funk's questions without the compromising of the voting equipment in Utah and the United States.

Commissioner Hatch said the decision to use the machines was made last year and the county is off track now, and needs to get back on track. The county has made the decision to have the machines recertified, all 40 machines will need to be recertified by the Diebold personnel before they can be used in the upcoming election. This recertification will be held sometime in April. The estimated costs of this recertification is approximately $40,000. But the exact costs are yet to be determined. The county has to run an election with the machines or the county will be in breach of contract.

The meeting again went into an executive session with Clerk Funk. The result of this executive session was the resignation of Funk and the commission reluctantly accepted his resignation.

The commission again met in a special session on March 31. Clerk Funk said he apologized for his actions on March 27, he didn't intend to offend anyone and he said he resigned because he felt beat down and fatigued and didn't see any other option available. He felt like the situation could be mediated to the good of everyone involved, but if the commissioners pursued their course then it would not be good for everyone and could involve litigation. He said he wished to restore integrity to himself, the commission and the voting equipment. The commission adjourned to executive session with Clerk Funk staying in the session.

Upon re-entering the open meeting, Commissioner Hatch said they gave Clerk Funk the opportunity to discuss his situation and the commission is not making any change. The motion made on March 27 to accept Funk's resignation still stands as of April 1. Funk was instructed to finish the day out and turn in his keys and credit card to Brenda Dugmore, deputy clerk or to the commission.

Funk wondered if he was entitled to legal counsel as an elected official. Attorney Blackwell didn't think the county was obligated to provide Funk with legal counsel. When Funk resigned it was a personal decision and if he chooses to secure legal counsel that will also be a personal decision. The meeting was adjourned.

In speaking with Funk he said he had repeatedly asked for legal advice and has now retained legal counsel and will pursue that very vigorously. He feels he hasn't done anything wrong. "It's like buying a new car if you get it home and it's down three quarts of oil and the oil is black, you know you're not going to get any real answers from the dealer.

"We just opened up the machines, we didn't cause $40,000 worth of damage. They're just trying to scare me out. Some of the election machines came out of California with other languages on them.

"They haven't answered my questions satisfactorily. Why do they have versions A, B, and C? They should all be the same versions with the same software.

"There are three mother boards and they were all different. The mother boards have to be checked for radiation and must have a federal certification number on them for any changes in chips.

"In municipal elections that were held, paper jams were a real problem. They didn't give answers that made me comfortable. I feel we can work this out and go on with the election process.

"Other counties aren't saying anything because they don't have anything to fall back on. Diebold is fixing some security things.I want people to look on the elections I have held for the last 23 years with the highest integrity.

"I think people in my spot would do the same thing. I think it will effect the nation's elections as a whole to beef up security. I think we are better off knowing these things.

"Trust in me and we'll get some real answers in the end. I will pursue this, I have not resigned. I am meeting with attorneys in Salt Lake," said Funk.

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