A state senator from Utah County spent much of Election Day trying to sort out a problem with early-voting ballots.
It seems the Utah County Clerk's Office mistakenly mailed duplicate ballots to a number of registered voters, raising questions about how the early-voting process was being managed and how to prevent multiple votes from one person.
Sen. Curt Bramble on Tuesday evening told the Daily Herald that duplicate ballots had been mailed through a private fulfillment company using mailing lists provided by the county. Each ballot had a unique serial number, which means that each was legal tender for voting purposes.
That raises the question of control. Were any safeguards in place to prevent someone from voting twice?
As of Tuesday night, that was an open question. Apparently, the duplicate ballots also included the voter's unique voter identification number. Assuming the county database is set up to verify each ballot by that number, the possibility of fraud seems minimal.
Was this a problem introduced by the third-party mail house? Or had the Utah County Clerk's Office failed to provide a clean electronic list of voters in the first place -- one that had been purged of duplicates? Bramble said the answer was not yet clear.
"Ultimately, I don't think there was any fraud," he said. "But it raises the question of who has responsibility for safeguarding the integrity of elections."
It seems clear to us that the responsibility falls squarely in the lap of the government elections office. And the solution needs to be announced to the public.
Either the official voter lists need to be clean going in, or there needs to be some sort of fail-safe mechanism after mailing to prevent duplicate votes.
One thing is certain: the implications are too serious to let this matter slide. The principle of one-man-one-vote needs to be guarded ferociously. Glitches like this one do not inspire confidence and must not be allowed to continue.
Arrest-free day in Utah
We'll bet you didn't know that the Utah Constitution forbids arrest on Election Day, except in certain cases.
Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution reads as follows:
"In all cases except those of treason, felony or breach of the peace, voters shall be privileged from arrest on the days of election, during their attendance at elections, and going to and returning therefrom."
This means you can't be arrested for speeding -- and especially if you are speeding to vote or to an election gathering.
You can't be arrested for vandalism. (Graffiti artists take note.)
You can't be arrested for trespassing, or shoplifting, or illegal dumping, or a whole host of other misdemeanors or infractions.
This protection of the people may not be widely known among members of law enforcement, so we offer no guarantees. But you might try smiling at the officer when you're pulled over and say in a sing-song voice: "No, no, no! It's election day!" and see how far it gets you.
This provision of the state Constitution mirrors the provision that shields state lawmakers from arrest during a legislative session. So when you see a lawmaker pulled over by the Highway Patrol and quickly waved on his way, it may not be a case of corruption. It may simply be a case of immunity.
In the old days (we're talking 19th century), there might have been instances of interference with elections by law enforcement. If you can prevent somebody from voting, or a key legislator from legislating, you might swing an outcome.
But times have changed. It's probably a good time to change this outmoded concept.