Report: Colorado ill-prepared for electronic voting woes |

Report: Colorado ill-prepared for electronic voting woes

Myung Oak Kim
Rocky Mountain News
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” A new national study released Thursday said Colorado is one of the least prepared states to handle electronic voting machine failures on Election Day.

The report gave Colorado low marks because state regulations don’t outline in detail how poll workers should address problems with voting terminals and don’t require counties to keep paper ballots as back-up.

The report is called “Is America Ready to Vote? State Preparations for Voting Machine Problems in 2008,” and was released by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, Common Cause and the Verified Voting Foundation.

Study authors cited numerous machine malfunctions and loss of votes in previous elections across the country, none of them in Colorado, and predicted that some terminals will fail on Nov. 4.

“Unfortunately, we don’t know where,” the report said. “For this reason, it is imperative that every state prepare for system failures. We urge each state to take steps necessary to insure that inevitable voting machine problems do not undermine either the individual right to vote, or our ability to accurately count each vote cast.”

Election planning in Colorado was thrown into chaos last December when Secretary of State Mike Coffman banned the use of thousands of electronic voting and counting machines because of security and accuracy flaws. Early this year, Coffman certified all the machines after conducting further tests and taking into account security measures taken by election workers.

Coffman’s office scrutinized the machines because of a lawsuit filed in 2006 by a local group of activists who oppose electronic voting. That group has strongly criticized Coffman’s decisions regarding the machines. Coffman has said he confident that the equipment can be trusted.

Local election officials also have defended the integrity of the machines, saying there have been no significant problems since they began deploying the equipment in the last decade.

Nevertheless, many large counties that had previously only used electronic machines decided this year to also offer paper ballots. Denver made the most drastic move – to discard their older electronic voting machines and implement a paper ballot-based voting system with very limited use of electronic terminals.

The report said Colorado had decent rules regarding post-election audits and verifying ballot counts. But it criticized the fact that two counties – Jefferson and Arapahoe – still use electronic machines that don’t have paper records. That means that if the software malfunctions and votes are lost, there’s no way to recover those votes. A state law will require that all e-voting terminals have paper records by January 2010.

Colorado was among 10 states identified as the least prepared for e-voting problems. The others are Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

The national report said six states were the most prepared to handle e-voting problems. They are Alaska, California, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Oregon.

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