Pitkin County voting machines up to snuff | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County voting machines up to snuff

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado

PITKIN COUNTY Despite a statewide voting machine crisis, Pitkin County officials say local equipment is up to snuff.In November, Coloradoans will vote for a new U.S. president, but with more than 80 percent of voting machines not up to state standards, state officials are looking for solutions.At a conference in Pueblo last week, members of the Colorado County Clerks Association voted by an 85 percent majority to use a mail-in ballot, according to a clerks association press release. With machines decertified, and counties scrambling to comply with SCORE II (a new statewide voter registration system), clerks are recommending the write-in ballot to avoid any impropriety in 2008.However, Gov. Bill Ritter recently recommended that all jurisdictions use paper ballots and allow voters to go to local polling places.We are deeply distressed and disappointed that we have made a concerted effort to make our voices heard and our concerns have been ignored, said Nancy Amick, president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, in the release.This is an extremely serious situation, and the Colorado county clerks want to avoid being the next national election disgrace, Amick said.California, Florida and Ohio officials have similar problems.Pitkin County, however, doesnt face the same issues, according to Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill. (None of Eagle Countys electronic machines was decertified either, but Garfield County is grappling with the problem.)Unless state legislators mandate a handwritten ballot either at polling places or as a mail-in vote Pitkin County machines are workable and it is up to Pitkin County commissioners to decide local voting procedure.Pitkin County election equipment was certified with conditions of use, Vos Caudill said.The county has Premier brand (formerly Diebold) touch screens and optical scanners that will require only a few minor security upgrades to meet with conditions of use. And minor fixes, such as new backup batteries to protect from power loss, will cost between $1,000 and $5,000, Vos Caudill said.Counties with Hart, Sequoia or ES&F brand machines would require costly upgrades.Locally, the November election could include county ballot initiatives and open commissioner seats, Vos Caudill said. County commissioners Jack Hatfield and Michael Owsley are up for re-election and Dorothea Farris is term-limited and her seat is open. There also could be some county ballot initiatives.The county clerks association is pushing the mail-in election, Vos Caudill said. But unless there is a statewide mandate, Pitkin County could use local machines at the polls without any problem, she said. Commissioners would review any state recommendation and vote on the matter.City of Aspen officials are under less-strict municipal guidelines and shouldnt have any problems with the May election, Vos Caudill said.cagar@aspentimes.com

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