Colorado election plan still up in air |

Colorado election plan still up in air

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” A proposal to switch to paper ballot elections this year could be doomed partly because of a lack of money, opening up the possibility that Colorado voters could cast their votes on once-discredited electronic voting machines.

Sen. Moe Keller, vice-chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee, said Wednesday that most of the $10 million Gov. Bill Ritter has proposed spending on the switch to paper is no longer available because of an unrelated funding dispute with the federal government and because of efforts to balance the state budget.

Keller said she planned to vote against the proposal when it comes up for a vote in the appropriations committee on Thursday.

“There’s no money for this bill,” Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, said.

Republican Sen. Steve Johnson, another budget committee member, said he would also vote against the bill because he thinks lawmakers should listen to clerks, who oppose the measure. Other Republicans on the committee have also questioned the need to spend the money on paper ballots now that the voting machines have been recertified by Secretary of State Mike Coffman.

Even Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, a co-sponsor of the paper ballot bill, said he now thinks voters should be able to vote using the machines despite threats of a lawsuit by voting activists.

“I think the machines, quite frankly, are more secure than paper,” McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, said.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, who has been doing most of the negotiating with clerks and the governor’s office on the bill, declined to comment on the bill’s fate.

“I’m going to run the bill tomorrow and see what happens,” Gordon said.

A spokesman for Ritter didn’t immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Plans for this year’s elections were thrown into turmoil when Coffman decertified the machines in December. Lawmakers later gave him permission to re-evaluate the machines using different fixes and talking to county clerks about their experience using the machines.

Ritter and legislative leaders from both parties also moved ahead with plans to conduct the election by paper ballot.

Coffman had shut the clerks out of the first round of reviews to avoid the appearance of being politically pressured to approve the machines, a problem raised in the 2006 lawsuit by voting machine opponents. After recertifying the machines, he joined the clerks in opposing the paper ballot proposal.