Election transparency on the line

Dear Editor:

2012 elections are big news, but Colorado’s potential role in a national election fiasco isn’t yet news. Those who understand election equipment and procedures anticipate increasing embarrassment as America watches Colorado vote.

If Colorado were an “emerging democracy,” The Carter Center would reject calls to monitor our elections because we fail to meet their minimum transparency standards.

If a major 2012 political contest turns on Colorado, as Bush/Gore did in Florida, the national press will recognize “Wild West” elections in some Colorado counties. With its focus on constant improvement, Pitkin will likely pass muster.

Surely the most irregular state and federal election in recent Colorado history has received little attention, despite a state-wide grand jury investigation that declared numerous irregularities occurring in November to be routine for Colorado and therefore not subject to legal remedies. Election officials’ activities, if not blatantly fraudulent, are deemed “substantially compliant” and therefore free from enforcement.

Do the following Saguache County examples from November’s election match your idea of “good enough” for government work in re-electing itself?

After a bi-partisan citizens’ canvass board refused to certify the results due to irregularities, the clerk unilaterally penned a Certificate of Election for her own job,

New but improperly purchased, uncertified, untested and unsecured voting equipment failed the post-election audit, yet its tabulations were deemed “official.” A logical canvass board attempt to hand count was blocked by the Secretary of State, in favor of unreliable machine counts.

Required surveillance videos of equipment access were deleted after a reporter filed an Open Records request.

After the election-night tabulation saw two incumbents lose, the clerk conducted an unsanctioned new tabulation three days later, returning the incumbents to power. The clerk destroyed most election night paper records and refuses access to electronic copies, claiming they are proprietary records of the equipment manufacturer.

Secretary of State staff initially boasted of their on-site verification of the new, revised tabulation. When their claims proved untrue, they claimed that the new tabulation had not actually occurred, despite video and audit records to the contrary.

The clerk mailed unsolicited ballots to selected voters for a controversial tax measure. Four ineligible voters were also permitted to vote on the tax increase that unofficially passed by one vote, although the canvas board could not confirm the count. The taxes were increased despite the questionable outcome.

When the Secretary of State ordered an audit, the clerk refused. Resulting litigation awaits the court’s decision.

The clerk continues to refuse access by public, press or Secretary of State to the records required to verify or contest the election.

Public and press investigated the Bush/Gore ballot tallies. Most Colorado election officials close doors to citizens and press that were open in Florida. Transparency advocates still await the Court of Appeals clarification of Colorado laws on needed access to anonymous ballots. In the meantime, egregious election irregularities are officially deemed, “substantially compliant” in Colorado.

Demand that state officials abandon our subpar standards and shore up Colorado’s election code. The nation’s voters should expect nothing less of Colorado voters.

Marilyn Marks