Senate panel backs Buescher for secretary of state
DENVER A Senate committee unanimously backed the appointment of former state Rep. Bernie Buescher as secretary of state on Monday, sending a vote on his confirmation to the full Senate.Next, the full Senate will vote on whether to appoint the Grand Junction Democrat to replace Mike Coffman, who was elected to Congress. It appeared Buescher would get another warm reception there. Legislators have already scheduled his swearing-in for Wednesday.Buescher, who served four years at the state Capitol before being ousted in November’s election, told members of the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee, that he wanted to build public confidence in state elections, including its electronic voting machines. During a recent meeting with the Colorado Restaurant Association, Buescher said 15 percent of those attending told him they didn’t have confidence that their vote had been accurately counted.He said testing of the machines should be rigorous and transparent and that there should also be post-election audits to make sure that votes were counted accurately. However, after the hearing, Buescher said a request from county clerks to continue the use of the electronic voting machines temporarily certified for last year’s election seemed reasonable.Electronic voting machines include both the touch-screen machines where voters make their ballot choices and the optical scanners used to count paper ballots.The machines have been under a cloud since the 2006 election, when voting activists went to court to challenge the state’s certification system. They were mostly worried about the reliability for the touch-screen devices because many didn’t have a paper record that could be verified.A judge allowed the machines to be used in that election but ordered the state to start from scratch and re-evaluate the accuracy and security of each machine.Under that court-ordered evaluation, Coffman decertified most of the state’s electronic voting machines, upsetting preparations for the 2008 presidential election. He then asked for more time to come up with fixes for the machines and the authority to work with clerks and vendors on solutions. Lawmakers agreed, but only allowed him to certify those machines for the 2008 and 2009 elections.This year, lawmakers must decide what to do next and Buescher said he will defer to them to come up with a plan.Most Colorado voters cast their votes by mail-in ballots last year, a first for a presidential election in the state. Buescher said he didn’t think the state should move to an all mail-in election because counties should be able to chose the method that works best for them.”I support the variety that we’ve given to the counties,” said Buescher, acknowledging that providing voters more options means more costly elections.
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