Paper balloting bill moves ahead
Gunnison County voters will likely be using electronic voting machines when they head to the polls this fall.
Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman announced on March 4 that he was re-certifying most of the voting machines that he had put out of commission in December because of security concerns.
The decision is good news for Gunnison County clerk and recorder Stella Dominguez, who was considering how to hold an election without electronic scanning equipment. "I was worried for a little bit but I tried not to," she says. "We had to come up with something."
Coffman’s decision marks the latest in an ongoing saga. In September 2006, a Denver District Court judge ruled that then-Secretary of State Gigi Dennis had failed to properly certify the $24 million of electronic voting systems purchased by county clerks to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. The judge declared the machines should be re-certified after the November 2006 election.
Following the order, Coffman started an intensive process of testing the machines and in December 2007 announced that all but one company’s machines had failed to meet security requirements. Gunnison County’s machines, manufactured by Hart InterCivic, were faulted for failing to count votes properly.
With the intent of getting the machines re-certified for Colorado’s August primary, Coffman appealed to the state legislature to allow him to retest machines that have undergone software upgrades or other changes. In response, the legislature passed House Bill 1155, which Governor Ritter signed on Monday, February 11. The legislation says the state’s security standards must be upheld and all re-certifications explained.
With the possibility of voter disenfranchisement over the electronic voting fiasco in a presidential election year, Ritter also introduced a plan to require all Colorado counties use paper ballots at polling stations.
Now, Coffman has recertified Hart InterCivic’s two machines used by Gunnison County—the eScan, which counts paper ballots, and the eSlate, which allows disabled voters to cast their ballots independently.
Dominguez says it’s unclear what requirements will accompany Coffman’s re-certification. "We don’t know what the conditions are yet," she says.
In a press release from Coffman’s office dated February 28, Coffman said the major fault of the Hart InterCivic eScan machine was its tendency to register stray marks on a ballot, which means it may errantly count it as a vote.
In his decision late last month, Coffman said he was requiring county clerks to put a note on ballots that voters need to avoid making stray marks and must check their ballot before scanning it. In addition, he said, in recount situations, each ballot must be examined for stray marks.
In the meantime, Ritter’s legislation to require an all-paper ballot election is continuing. A Senate Committee cleared Senate Bill 189 on Thursday, March 6.
According to Dominguez, the legislation won’t have much affect in Gunnison County, which already uses a paper ballot system.
"I’m comfortable with a paper ballot," she says. "We’ve always done it anyway."