-Aspen's historic May 5, 2009 IRV election audited as single ballots- 5/5/09 Aspen CO held an instant runoff election (IRV) for mayor and 2 council members. Interpreted contents of each ballot, scanned by True Ballot, were publicly released. Open records requests for a CD of image scans were denied. Aspen has been sued to protect records from destruction and to allow inspection of the scanned ballot files. A Court of Appeals ruling holds that unidentifiable ballots are public records.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Provocative bill to take Colorado to a universal mail-in ballot will not be introduced

Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher speaking to the newly appointed Best Practices and Vision Commission just announced that the 69 page bill being prepared for late introduction to take the state to a universal mail-in ballot with "service centers" and election day registration will not be introduced this year.  The Best Practices group (citizens, clerks, legislators and representatives of parties) will consider this among other issues. It's first meeting was today.  One of the interesting revelations of the first discussion was to note that most municipalities do not check signatures on mail-in ballots (and are not required to do so).

The following press release (after the break)  from the Colorado Secretary of State is misleading. It offers a false alternative- between "touch screens in polling centers" and "mail ballots fed through high speed scanners".  Neither of these is technically necessary in a traditional polling place counted election. In fact both of these are the same two limited choices that would have been forced on voters as a result of the "Modernization Bill" that will not be introduced this year.  The real choice (still available to many voters in Colorado) is between paper ballots counted in precinct polling places using reliable paper poll books, and on the other hand vote centers or service centers dependent on electronic pollbooks and functional networks and high tech centralized facilities for counting paper ballots requiring moving ballots to where they are counted (either from precincts or by mail).

The conversation about mail ballots has not exposed the deleterious effects it has on citizen oversight. Too often the discussion is framed in a promotional manner.

The Secretary of State did express a set of goals for the Best Practices and Vision Commission that features accuracy high on the list and does not mention convenience or cost.  If he meant to place convenience and cost at a lower priority than accuracy of counting and eligibility then I compliment him on setting goals properly.  Watch the Secretary of State's website for audio recordings from these meetings: www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/pressrel/PR20100319Members.htm

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              MEDIA CONTACT:     Rich Coolidge
April 21, 2010                                                                                             (303) 860-6903

Buescher continues efforts to identify efficiencies in elections
Applauds Speaker’s decision to table legislation for 2010

Denver, Colorado – Secretary of State Bernie Buescher praised the Colorado County Clerks Association and House Speaker Terrance Carroll for their efforts to improve and modernize Colorado’s election processes and procedures.

“As I stated during the start of these discussions, my aim is to streamline election processes and identify efficiencies without compromising the safeguards and security measures already in place,” Buescher said. “Thanks to Speaker Carroll and the county clerks, these discussions were incredibly productive and will most certainly continue. The ultimate goals are to effectively utilize proven technology, improve convenience for the voters and to save county taxpayer dollars.”

Many counties will see an end to their voting equipment’s life cycle in the next couple of years. As they begin to make arrangements to supplement their fleets of equipment, clerks are seeking a clear indication of how elections will look in Colorado in the future. Should the state continue to utilize touch screen machines in polling centers or move more toward mail ballots fed through high-speed scanners?
“These counties deserve to know the voting systems that the General Assembly will request for our elections,” Buescher said.

Buescher also agreed with the vast majority of the county clerks polled that it is appropriate to remove outdated barriers that may exist for voters updating registration records or for new voter registrations. However, more discussion was needed to prevent any unintended consequences during an election year.

The decision by Carroll to table legislation for this legislative session fell on the day of Buescher’s first scheduled meeting for his Elections Best Practices and Vision Commission. The commission’s membership was finalized last month.

“I hope to use this commission’s balanced membership to continue the discussions over the course of the year,” Buescher said. “The three overarching goals for the commission are to make it as easy as possible for every eligible citizen to vote, to make sure every vote is counted accurately and to limit in every reasonable way, the opportunity for fraud or abuse.”

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