-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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Thursday, April 15, 2010

TrueBallot certifies Aspen May 5, 2009 election "fair and accurate" on April 12, 2010

The following was produced as a response to a Colorado Open Records request for the certification called for in the agreement between TrueBallot, Inc. and the City of Aspen.   The contract, signed by the City Clerk on April 23, 2009  states that "upon completion of the tabulation of the ballot, TBI and/or John Seibel, Esq. shall, if no substantial irregularity has occurred, certify the ballot as fair and accurate."  The original contract in pdf form can be found by clicking here.  The open records request was sent on April 8 2010 and the following letter was written on April 12, 2010.

TrueBallot, Inc
Election Services & Solutions
3 Bethesda Metro Center
Suite 700
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
(301) 656-9500
FAX (301) 656-3558

John L. Seibel

April 12, 2010

Kathryn Koch
City Hall
130 S. Galena St.
Aspen, CO 81611

Dear Ms. Koch:

I believed that we provided a certification of the May, 2009 Aspen City election at the time of the election when all of the election data was presented.  However, in the event that certification was not provided, please accept as this letter as certification that the tabulation of the ballots in May, 2009 Aspen city election as presented on May 5, 2009 and subsequently amended to correct an insubstantial error in the final tabulation of the results in the Mayor's race, were fair and accurate.

TrueBallot, Inc

John L. Seibel, President


Voter said...

Whats next - will voting vendors CAST the votes too?

For the record, I've NEVER heard of a voting vendor, a corporation -certifying an election.

I thought corporations weren't people? (Yet)

Marilyn Marks said...

Voting Integrity Experts,
I have a question. Is there any other public election in the U.S. that anyone knows of that was certified by a vendor?

Has anyone ever seen a public election certified as “fair?” By a vendor,-- no doubt?

How does the vendor determine that the tabulation was “fair?” In our case, 803 of our 2544 ballots were in an unlocked “early voting” ballot box, and about 15% of those were voted REALLY early, --before the law allowed voting to take place. Yet True Ballot concluded that counting those votes was “fair.”

The IRV formula used for the City Council race was in direct violation of state law—which prohibits a lesser ranking from counting against a higher ranking. But somehow TrueBallot must have determined that this was “fair,” despite the legal prohibition.

Interestingly, the ballots were not shuffled before being scanned in batches within precincts and individual cast vote records published which appear to be sequenced generally in the same order as the poll books, meaning that with some analysis, one can likely determine the voting choices of many individuals. While non-anonymous elections are obviously unconstitutional, TrueBallot certified it as “fair!”

TrueBallot made no effort to read the 149 votes written in on the line for write in candidates. Some were likely qualified candidate names where the vote should have been counted for that candidate.

But I guess TrueBallot thinks that was “fair,” despite the requirements of the Colorado Voter Intent Rules.

The list goes on with dozens of irregularities, including the fact that no voter i.d. was required, despite the law which mandated it. TrueBallot was apparently able to see all of these violations of laws and rules as not really a big deal, and “fair.”

Perhaps more cities should consider having vendors certify their elections! Maybe it would boost for “voter confidence!”
Marilyn Marks

Mike LaBonte said...

I personally have never seen a voting system vendor directly participate in an election. The public expect elections to be run by public officials, not private companies. Election officials must deliver the official, certified results for elections.

This letter doesn't give the results it purports to certify. Given that TrueBallot was responsible only for tallying the Mayor and City Council races, they would be unable to certify the ballot question that was tallied using AccuVote-OS counts, anyway.

In "the tabulation of the ballots in May, 2009 Aspen city election as presented", the letter cautiously absolves TrueBallot from certifying that the ballots were cast properly in the precincts and transported securely for central count. That same kind of language is used by financial auditors who can only certify that the books given to them appear to be correct. The books could of course be entirely invented.

TrueBallot would be unable to certify the ballot collection process, especially for the "early voting" machine. City election officials were responsible for the in-precinct conduct of the election, and they should have been fully responsible for certifying the tally as well. The precinct workers took an oath in the morning. Did TrueBallot?

So while this letter belies a stunning degree of dependence on a private company to run an election, it still offers only a veneer of certification.

Marilyn Marks said...

I read the “tabulation as presented…. and subsequently amended” very differently than you did.

To me that indicates the tabulation as “presented,” by TBI, -- not a reference to the ballots being “presented” to TBI.
So, I do interpret this that they certified the “fairness” of the tabulation---and all that that entails.

I should note that the results were certified by the municipal judge based on the report of 3 city employees acting as election judges.

The Election Commissioners were told that they would be expected to certify the election, but refused to do so because of irregularities noted.
So this was an entirely different “certification” ---if you can call it that.

Regardless, I agree with your conclusion that this is very strange, and should not have the effect of boosting voter confidence, but instead, generating some serious questions.
Marilyn Marks

Mike LaBonte said...

Yes, I see now that most likely TrueBallot meant the "tabulation ... as presented" (by TrueBallot) and not the "ballots ... as presented" (by the Clerk). In general it seems to me the letter should have better clarified the scope of the certification. In any event I have probably spent too much time nit-picking over a certification letter that seems pointless because it comes from an agency with no visible accreditation. The TrueBallot system itself is not certified, so no one should be fooled into seeing this "certification" as in any way equivalent to the formal certifications established by law.

elizabeth said...

I was an election commissioner for this election (who was later removed from office once the entire EC asked for clarification of our roles amidst all of the election confusion around here) who refused to certify this election in 2009. The city attorney was not bothered by this at all, stating the day of the election, "It doesn't matter, the EC is merely ceremonial." So he got the municipal judge to certify a most controversial election, nevermind what the city charter calls for and the fact that the judge was not present for any of the shenanigans surrounding the vote count and election conduct. TBI "certifying" the election 11 months later? They are complicit in the mess! It just goes to show that the "relationship" between the city of Aspen and its vendor are still quite cozy, especially now that the bright spotlight is on all of them. It was crooked before the election, during the vote count and afterwards. I saw it and tried to bring my concerns forward. As a result, I was vilified by city council and in the local papers as being corrupt and dishonest. I really appreciate the attention of the election integrity community on this. There is a lot being covered up (obviously) by the city (clerk, especially) and TBI, but we WILL get to the bottom of it!