Garfield County voting machines OK’d |

Garfield County voting machines OK’d

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico is now breathing a sigh of relief.

That’s because Secretary of State Mike Coffman on Thursday announced that Hart InterCivic’s eScan, which is used by Garfield County to tabulate election results, has been conditionally certified for use in Colorado. The company’s Ballot Now system, a ballot printing and counting machine the county has purchased but not used in an election, was also conditionally certified Thursday.

The state’s election system was thrown into chaos last month when Secretary of State Mike Coffman announced in December that he was decertifying several electronic voting machines, including Hart’s eScan and Ballot Now systems, across the state

based on accuracy and security problems.

“We are in great shape,” Alberico said. “We are set. We are excited. We now have

the OK to use our optical scanners. “

Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown said it was “about time” the machines were re-certified.

Coffman’s December decision left counties wondering if they needed to purchase new equipment for the August primaries and November’s general election.

“(Coffman’s decision) saved a lot of money and headaches to the county,” McCown said.

The major deficiency of the eScan was a failure to count ballots correctly when there are extraneous marks on the ballot, according to a statement from the Secretary of State’s office.

Those marks could cause instances where a voter ” who did not make a choice in a race or a ballot question ” could cause the system to incorrectly record an extraneous mark as a vote and the error would not be detected, the statement said.

Following public testimony, the state’s Testing Board developed draft procedures to be used by the counties to identify ballots containing extraneous marks. The board also required election judges to review every ballot prior to scanning and determine the voter’s intent where an extraneous mark is found on a ballot, according to the statement.

However, Coffman “concluded the draft procedures would be ineffectual and unnecessary” because testimony presented showed it is “extremely unlikely” that extraneous marks would change the outcome of the race. In his decision to re-certify the Hart eScan counter and the BallotNow software, Coffman imposed two requirements.

Coffman’s certification now requires clerks to put language on ballots that tell voters to carefully examine their ballots for stray marks within voting boxes and in the event of a recount, every ballot must be physically examined for the presence of extraneous marks, the statement said.

“I was confident that there was going to be a solution,” Alberico said. “I was hoping that this was going to be the solution.”

Another requirement that might come forward, according to Alberico, is to require counties that use the Hart machines to purchase the company’s software to create ballots ” which Garfield County has but many smaller counties do not.

“We have purchased that, and we are in great shape,” Alberico said.

Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, has also submitted a bill that will allow voters to cast paper ballots at polling locations during the August primaries and the November general election. Alberico added the county is well-prepared for that because that is the “model” the county used in 2006.