Colorado panel to look at paper ballots, all-mail voting |

Colorado panel to look at paper ballots, all-mail voting

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” A new commission charged with reviewing how Colorado runs elections is looking at whether the state should rely more on paper ballots than electronic voting machines, and whether the state should move toward all-mail elections.

The Election Reform Commission created by state lawmakers met for the first time Wednesday to decide which issues members would study.

Other issues the bipartisan group plans to study are stronger postelection audits to double-check the accuracy of vote counts and how voters are canceled from the new statewide database, the subject of a lawsuit the week before Election Day.

The 11-member group is composed of county clerks, election lawyers, a computer security expert and Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, the group’s chairman. Five are Republicans, five are Democrats and one is unaffiliated.

It is expected to make recommendations by March.

The Legislature created the commission last year amid confusion and doubts about the accuracy of electronic voting.

The majority of county clerks fought an effort to switch to an all-paper election in the middle of their planning for the presidential election, so lawmakers stuck with the current system, which allows each county to decide its own voting system.

With that election done, Gordon said, there’s time to recommend changes that lawmakers can make next year in time for the 2010 election.

Gordon has been critical of electronic voting machines. So has another panel member, attorney Paul Hultin, who represented voters who tried to stop the use of the machines in 2006. Hultin said he thinks paper ballots that can be optically scanned is a “happy marriage” of technology and reliability.

Commission member Mark Baisley, president and CEO of the information security firm Slip Glass, said he has voted on electronic voting machines and thinks they can be trusted with proper security.

However, his work trying to stop hackers from getting access to online banking transactions and orders to soldiers in the field still make him skeptical of whether voting machines always work as they should.

“We should always have the jaundiced view of this, especially with systems like this that determine our history,” he said.

Several clerks on the panel pointed to the fact that about half of Colorado voters voted by mail this year as a reason to look at an all-mail election. Larimer County clerk Scott Doyle also said that Oregon had eight ballot questions when it switched to an all-mail election while Colorado had 14 this year.

Also on the commission are clerks Stephanie O’Malley of Denver County, Patti Nickell of Bent County, Bob Balink of El Paso County and Sally Misare of Castle Rock, deputy secretary of state Bill Hobbs, lawyers Scott Gessler and Scott Martinez.

Voter registration became an issue in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election. Voter advocacy groups sued Secretary of State Mike Coffman, alleging his office illegally purged 27,000 names too close to the primary and general elections.

This week, Coffman’s office said that actual total of names purged between May 14 and Election Day was 44,000. It said most were duplicates or voters who had moved.

State officials had to compile the list under a deal reached with the groups that sued. The deal allowed anyone who was wrongly purged to cast a provisional ballot.

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that a survey of several county clerks showed several hundred people whose registrations were canceled had to cast provisional ballots. No official count will be available until next week.

Jenny Flanagan, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, one of the groups that sued, said officials may never know the extent of the problem caused by the cancellations. She said some might not have tried to vote because they saw they were no longer listed as registered on the state’s Web site or because they stopped getting election notices.

“I think there’s going to be big void in our knowledge,” she said.

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