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County officials dispute state test results on voting equipment

Ivan Moreno
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” County election officials challenged the secretary of state’s voting-machine test results on Thursday, saying problems that led the state to decertify the equipment were either minor or nonexistent.

The exchange came at a hearing called by Secretary of State Mike Coffman after he disqualified most of the electronic voting equipment used in Colorado because of accuracy or security concerns last December.

That threw the election plans into confusion and means this year’s voting will almost certainly have to be done on paper ballots. Lawmakers are still ironing out the details.



State Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, said there’s enough concern from voters about the machines that he plans to introduce a bill next week calling for a paper election, with optical scanners doing the counting.

The state is still required to have electronic voting equipment available at every polling place for disabled people and for anyone else who asks to use it.




Coffman’s staff said Thursday that equipment made by Hart InterCivic sometimes counted stray marks on ballots as votes. Clerks from Boulder, Douglas and Montrose counties said election judges could easily spot and correct those errors.

They said Hart’s equipment works fine.

Coffman’s staff said Sequoia Voting Systems equipment doesn’t correctly print a paper record of votes cast, but Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Nancy Doty said she has never had problems with the machines.

Doty said if the machines are not rectified, the county would have to spend $3.5 million on new ones to accommodate disabled voters.

Claudia Kuhns, executive director of the Public Integrity Project advocacy group, said Sequoia equipment was susceptible to paper jams and sometimes produced garbled printouts.

“I would never vote on those machines knowing what I know about them,” she said.

Officials also discussed equipment manufactured by Election Systems and Software, which Coffman also decertified. With that system, officials cited security threats, saying the machines could be shut down by putting a magnet in them.

However, the Mesa County and Jefferson county election clerks said at the hearing they were pleased with the machines.

Harvie Branscomb with the Colorado Voter Group, an organization that says it seeks to improve the state’s election system, said he found it difficult to believe election clerks never encountered problems with the machines.

“The reason for that is because nobody asks and nobody tells,” he said.

Branscomb was among some at the meeting who criticized Coffman, saying the testing process of the machines was secret. Coffman said he wasn’t required to make the testing public.

Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold Election Systems, is the only company that remains certified in the state.

Coffman is expected to decide next week whether to begin a process to re-certify any of the equipment, but he said it might take longer.

“The fact is I have to deliberate on the information that I’m hearing today,” he said. He has until March 12 to make his decision.

Officials in Ohio, New Jersey and Maryland are also debating what to do about electronic voting.

Testers in Ohio found that electronic machines could be corrupted with magnets or handheld electronic devices.

New Jersey tried retrofitting 10,000 electronic voting machines with paper printers, but lab tests found flaws with the printers.

Maryland plans to abandon its touch-screen voting machines in favor of optical-scan ones.

Colorado is one of five states that is considering going back to all-paper elections after having problems changing to electronic systems, according to a report released Thursday by Electionline, a project of The Pew Center on the States.

The other states are Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, and California, according to the study.


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