Pitkin County Clerk: Election rigging ‘highly unlikely’
Rigging the election in Pitkin County or Colorado is “improbable” and “highly unlikely” thanks to a number of safeguards and security measures built into election systems, a local election official said Wednesday.
“I’m 100 percent confident the system will not be compromised,” said Janice Vos Caudill, Pitkin County’s clerk and recorder.
Lynn Bartels, spokeswoman for Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, agreed.
“We say (election rigging) is really unlikely, and we’re not the only ones,” Bartels said. “(Other) secretaries of state are saying it’s not going to happen (too).
“(Republican presidential nominee Donald) Trump can say it on Twitter but it doesn’t make it so.”
Trump has been making accusations in recent weeks that the election is being rigged against him.
But for that to happen in Colorado, for example, would require “a massive conspiracy of all 64 county clerks and the secretary of state,” Bartels said, noting that clerks statewide can be Democrats, Republicans or independents.
In Pitkin County, two separate systems are involved in the election, Vos Caudill said. One is a statewide system that keeps track of voter information, while the other is a stand-alone system for Pitkin County only that keeps track of votes, she said.
The statewide system, run by the Secretary of State’s Office, tracks registered voters, addresses, party affiliation and other voter information, Vos Caudill said. That system is connected to other databases that keep those records as up to date as possible, including the Motor Vehicle Department, the address change database for the U.S. Postal Service, the Colorado Department of Corrections, the Colorado Department of Revenue and the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.
Public Health and Environment, for example, keeps track of deaths, she said.
The Secretary of State’s Office conducts state and local level security testing of that system as well as employing a full-time risk manager to assess the validity of it, Vos Caudill said.
As for the voting machines, only the elections manager and an election specialist in Pitkin County have access to that system, she said.
“They’re the ones who program the election, design the ballot, oversee the counting (of ballots) and upload the totals to the secretary of state’s website,” Vos Caudill said.
Not even Vos Caudill herself has access to that system, and it is not connected to the internet so it cannot be hacked.
Computers keep track of all activity in that system, while there’s video surveillance of the counting room for 60 days before the election until 30 days after, she said. In addition, a person must have an access swipe card to enter the counting room, Vos Caudill said.
Finally, partisan judges conduct tests on the voting machines prior to the election to make sure they are working correctly before the machines are sealed for election day, she said.
Volunteers also watch polls to make sure voting is accurate and correct.
This election marks the first time Pitkin County has conducted a mail-in election in a presidential year, she said. For those mail-in ballots, elections officials scan it in to the system when it’s received, partisan judges then review the signature on the envelope with the signature on record in the statewide voter registration system, and then, provided the signatures match, the ballot is accepted for counting, Vos Caudill said.
The votes then go through an opening process where the signed envelopes with the signatures are removed to ensure anonymity and the ballots are sealed again. Then the anonymous ballots are later opened by counting judges and tallied, she said.
If a person tries to vote at the poll on election day after already casting a vote by mail, the system will recognize that and not allow that vote, Vos Caudill said. If a person mails in a ballot, which has not yet been received, and then votes at the poll on election day, that, too, would be caught and the person would be referred to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, she said.
Finally, if anyone believes the election is rigged, they can file a request through the Colorado Open Records Act and receive a copy of every ballot cast — minus names — and tally them up themselves, Vos Caudill said.
Most states have similar systems to Colorado’s, so Vos Caudill and Bartels both said they think it highly unlikely the election could be rigged on a national scale either.
“Historically, the problem in the United States is the ability of some to register to vote and the influence of Jim Crow laws,” Vos Caudill said.
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The field for three open seats on Aspen City Council in this spring’s election is set at 10 people, most of who are newcomers to Aspen’s political scene. Eight are going for the two council seats and two candidates are vying for mayor.