Can Colorado voting machines be fixed? |

Can Colorado voting machines be fixed?

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Secretary of State Mike Coffman asked state lawmakers Thursday for more time and flexibility to fix problems with the state’s electronic voting machines and said it’s possible they could be ready by November’s elections.

But he said he couldn’t guarantee the machines will be used because first he needs to ensure they are secure.

Coffman threw the state’s election plans into confusion last month when he ruled that most of the electronic voting equipment used in Colorado was unsuitable because of security and accuracy problems.

The manufacturers and some county election officials have questioned Coffman’s methods and rulings, and he has been softening his position in recent days.

Coffman briefed state lawmakers about the problems Thursday.

“I’ve laid out what the key issues (are) in every system that need to be addressed,” he said after the hearing. “The question is ‘Can they be addressed?’ and I think we have an obligation to try.”

In one case he cited, Sequoia Voting Systems’ touchscreen machine was decertified because Coffman said the company failed to submit documents showing the machine can produce paper receipts showing how each vote was cast. Coffman said Sequoia later submitted the documents.

But Coffman said he can’t make a final decision on whether to recertify the machine until it goes through an administrative appeal laid out in state law.

Coffman said the test results are backed up with about 30,000 pages of documents and 800 hours of videotape per machine.

“I think the tests in my view are very compelling,” he said.

Coffman tested the machines after a 2006 lawsuit challenged the certification process and the equipment. The judge in that lawsuit said state officials botched the original testing of the machines, but he allowed them to be used in the November 2006 election because there wasn’t enough time to switch to a different method.

Coffman said he tried to not communicate very much about the new tests with the county clerks who run elections and buy the equipment because the judge said the secretary of state’s office faced political pressure to certify machines.

Coffman said he also consulted with the attorney general’s office before issuing his ruling to make sure the decision could be defended in court.

Coffman said he would like another two months to test fixes on the problems that led him to decertify the machines. He also asked lawmakers to change the approval process, which gives manufacturers a chance to look through the state’s testing records and ask for what they think should be proprietary information to be removed. The state has a chance to respond before the final documents are made public.

Coffman said he wants to work more directly with clerks and vendors to come up with solutions.

Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, thinks Colorado should move toward a mostly paper ballot election in November ” whether by mail or at polling stations ” as it continues to work on the electronic machines.

“We’re not the only state that is having this type of issue,” said Gordon, pointing to problems in Ohio. Gordon lost the secretary of state’s race to Coffman in 2006.

A federal law passed after the 2000 Florida election debacle requires that every polling station have at least one machine approved for use by disabled voters although they can be used by any voter that wants to use it. Touchscreen machines are only ones that have been submitted for use in November’s election.

Coffman and Gordon agreed those machines need to be fixed by then.

“Whether we’re using a few of these machines or thousands in a given area, it is not less important to make sure they’re secure,” Coffman said.

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