Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tuesday was a good day for Utah Democrats, but...

February 5, 2008

Bryan Thompson, Utah County Auditor/Clerk
100 East Center Street
Suite 3600
Provo, Utah 84606-3106

Reason: When a mistake is made by the government at the poll designating a voter as Republican when in fact the voter is registered as non-affiliated and expresses his wish to vote in the Democratic primary and the voter also expresses his belief that the Republican designation is an error should some mechanism be available to correct the undisputed mistake?

Facts: At approximately 11:30 A.M. after a 30 minute wait in line at Suncrest Elementary School, 700 West 200 North, Orem, Utah, I was told by the polling attendant that their records showed that I was registered as a Republican and therefore could not vote in the Democratic Primary as was my desire. I expressed my disappointment and asked if anything could be done to verify what I thought was a mistake. I was told I could do nothing and would have to vote Republican.

I asked to speak to the person in charge. I was introduced to __________, Poll Manager. She told me that I could do nothing. I asked who her supervisor was and if any contact could be made. _____ said her supervisor's name was _______ but that she did not know her last name or how to contact her to verify or correct the mistake, if any. _____ gave me a telephone number, 851-8128. I got out of line and spent the next 20-30 minutes on the telephone. I got a recorded message with several options. I got website and an address for the county. The recording said I had to change my party affiliation 30 days prior to the election so it seemed futile to try to correct the error if, indeed, there was an error. I was wedged between book shelves at the school library with only my cell phone.

It was now approximately 12:30 P.M…..we had arrived at 11:10 A.M. My wife said she had to go and volunteered to catch a ride home with someone else. I tried to document the facts by writing a note and leaving it with the poll manager. I also requested that a note be made in the ledger where I signed that I was voting Republican under protest because I actually wanted to vote Democratic but was refused at the poll. I voted in the Republican Primary and left.

I left Orem at approximately 12:30 P.M. I drove to Provo to collect some rent and then drove to the County Building at 100 East Center, Provo, Room 3100. I explained my desire to vote democratic. _________ and one other girl pulled up my registration dated, Dec. 12, 2005. The registration showed no party affiliation. _____ said that it was their mistake and that the person at the poll could have called to verify my party affiliation and then I would have been allowed to vote as I desired. However, she could do nothing about it now since my vote had already been cast….the mistake could not be corrected.

Since I had been told this before at the poll and it proved to be untrue, I asked why nothing could be done and I sought understanding. I was told that once the vote is entered in the machine, it cannot be changed, even though everyone knew it was a mistake. _____ offered to write a note to the poll manager. She wrote the following:

"Poll Workers,
In the future if a voter comes in and wants you to check (with) my office about an error, Please call us before you decide there is nothing you can do. In this case Mr. Mendenhall (Van Orman) was registered as a Republican by mistake. If you would have called, we could have told you to allow him to vote the Democratic Ballot. He has already voted and it was not his choice. Please call in the future so we can help the voter get their vote the right way to count it.
Thanks, _____"

My response was gratitude but it did not fix the mistake. It seems reasonable that if all concerned know that there is a mistake, it could be corrected. It was now about 2:10-2:30 P.M. Next I spoke with Bryan E. Thompson, Clerk Auditor. _____ introduced him as her boss and the one in charge. I explained the situation again and left photo copies of my rough notes including the note that the poll manager was asked to save to document my appearance, request and refusal. Bryan E. Thompson said there was nothing he could do to correct the mistake but that I could make a written complaint. I said I would like to leave my rough notes as the complaint and would follow-up with a more complete letter.

A television reporter with a T.V. camera was in the hall outside Mr. Thompson's office. I offered my story to him and he took my telephone number. Mr. Thompson told him that there was only one case…mine….that he knew about.

At 4:00 P.M. I returned to the poll at Suncrest Elementary in Orem to deliver the note from __________ to the poll manager. I delivered the original note in red ink and kept a faint copy. I also redelivered a copy of my note that I asked the poll manager to keep to document my request to vote and the refusal, etc. While driving home I was listening to K.S.L. interviewing Gary Herbert regarding the election….it was about 4:40 P.M. Gary spoke about Provisional Written Ballots and that he, Gary Herbert, had voted in about one minute. I turned my car around and headed back to the poll thinking I may be able to file a Provisional Written Ballot along with sworn affidavits that could correct the error and then my vote would count in the Democratic Primary. At 4:49 P.M. I called the County and spoke with _____ about the Provisional Written Ballot and if that could correct the mistake. She said that someone had just corrected the mistake on the computer today but there was no way to change my vote. She gave me Gary Herbert's telephone number, 1-801-538-1041 and 1-800-705-2464. I called the 801 number and spoke with Spencer Hadley who said he was a special assistant to Gary Herbert. We spoke for 21 minutes. I explained the facts, pointing out that there was no dispute as to what had happened. The government had made a mistake and that there ought to be a mechanism to correct the mistake. It was now 5:20 and I was sitting outside the polling station. Spencer Hadley said they could not correct the mistake once a vote is cast. It would violate state law and the right to a secret ballot. I volunteered to waive my right to a secret ballot and give a sworn statement of how I voted and how I wanted it corrected. However, he believed it could not be changed. He suggested I write a letter.

It is now 10:30 P.M. My "Super Tuesday voting experience" began at
11:10 A.M. at the polls. This will be a voting day to remember!

I hope this letter will make administrative voting errors easier to correct when the mistake and the correction are indisputable and it seems the right thing to do. I realize clerical errors happen, but if they cannot be eliminated, I think they should be capable of correction when timely and indisputably discovered.

Thank you,

Peter M. Van Orman


Mike Jones said...


The bright side of that story is that you only had to wait in line for 20 minutes! My wife was 1 hour 20 and I was 1 hour 45.


Mike Jones said...

... Sorry, that should be 1 hour 30 minutes for my wait...

Gets longer every time I tell the story :)