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Colorado Elections Director Resigns Amid Inquiry PDF  | Print |  Email
By Myung Oak Kim, Rocky Mountain News   
September 09, 2008
The abrupt resignation Thursday of a top elections official at the secretary of state's office happened in the midst of a watchdog group's investigation into her relationship with a local businessman who has contracts with that office.

Holly Lowder, 66, resigned from her post as elections director two months before what is expected to be one of the biggest elections in recent Colorado history. She held that job since 2006. Before that, Lowder served as Alamosa County clerk for about 25 years.

Colorado Ethics Watch had been pursuing documents from the state regarding Lowder's ties to John Paulsen.

Paulsen, 59, operates a software company called LEDS, LLC from his home in Castle Rock, records show. LEDS has installed voter databases in more than 30 counties and recently got two contracts worth almost $184,000 with the secretary of state's office for data work related to the current election season.

Records show that Lowder recently lived at a Cherokee Street home in Denver that is owned by Paulsen.

Chantell Taylor, director of Ethics Watch, called Lowder's resignation "no coincidence."

Read the entire article at the Rocky Mountain News
Colorado: Paper Ballots Way To Go PDF  | Print |  Email
By Al Kolwicz, Colorao Voter Group   
March 14, 2008
This oped was published in the Rocky Mountain News and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Despite assurances to the contrary, Colorado county clerks do not know best. Their job has changed. It used to be an administrative job, overseeing people, procedures and paper. It is now a systems manager job, overseeing the design, purchase, testing and operation of complex computerized election systems.

Not many county clerks are qualified to do the job they have chosen. Not surprisingly, clerks delegate responsibilities to equipment suppliers who claim to know what's best. Clerks have an unhealthy dependency on these suppliers. The supplier's agenda is not the electorate's agenda.

Clerks shun accountability and public debate. They hold secret meetings. They withhold data needed to detect election errors and fraud. They block public participation in election planning and oversight. To promote their agenda, clerks use public resources to lobby against the interests of the electorate, and they make misleading statements that disparage watchdogs and give false assurances to voters.

Most county clerks give convenience and cost their top priority. Many claim that voter confidence tops their list. But voter confidence is not based on convenience and cost. Voter confidence is earned when an election is transparent, each process is independently verified, and every problem is publicly disclosed. Clerks might know what is best for clerks; but clerks don't do what is best for the electorate.
Colorado: Gov. Ritter, Bi-Partisan Lawmakers Announce New Legislative Plan to Conduct 2008 Elections PDF  | Print |  Email
By Colorado Governor Bill Ritter Media Release   
January 23, 2008
Click here to view Gov. Ritter's letter to the county clerks.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (pictured at right) and a group of bipartisan lawmakers today announced new legislation for conducting the 2008 elections by using paper ballots at polling places while maintaining voter choice through options such as early or absentee mail voting.

"One of the most basic roles of government is to provide for elections that are fair, reliable, transparent and convenient for voters," Gov. Ritter said. "Our democracy depends not only on the people's ability to vote, but also on their confidence that every vote counts.

"This bi-partisan legislative proposal will fix the problems we face because of decertified electronic voting machines for the 2008 elections. Paper ballots are a tried-and-true election method that has worked for decades. They ensure a verifiable paper trail and minimize the possibility of technology failures that have caused Election Day problems in the past."

The legislation will be co-sponsored by Reps. Alice Madden, D-Boulder, and David Balmer, R-Centennial, and Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver.

"Given the constraints of the decertifications, this is the best solution we can craft," Rep. Balmer said. "We must preserve absentee voting and Election Day, precinct-based voting so that we avoid disenfranchising voters who only vote in presidential election years."

"The people of Colorado can be assured that the 2008 elections will be accessible, accurate, secure and transparent," Sen. Gordon said. "With paper ballots as the primary method of casting votes, people can feel secure knowing that there is a paper record of their vote."

Colorado Secretary of State Wants Paper Ballots in Precinct Polling Locations PDF  | Print |  Email
By Al Kolwicz, Colorado Voter Group   
December 27, 2007
Paper ballots in precinct polling locations is the Colorado SOS's recommendation for 2008, but, before it can happen, SOS Coffman must first stop the Colorado Legislature from changing the law.

Some legislators support those Colorado Clerks who want to override the people's 2002 vote against mandatory mail ballot elections. For clerks, mandatory mail ballot elections are less trouble. Poll watchers cannot see what is happening, and clerks do not need to deal with pesky election judges and private voting booths. Instead of election judges, clerks get to hand-pick temporary workers to perform the election duties - no questions asked. Pure and simple, this is a battle between the clerks and the voters, between fast and cheap vs. verifiably accurate.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon is organizing a public event for January 3rd. He will give the public an opportunity to sound off. There will be no discussion. There will be no answers. Colorado officials have done
everything possible to avoid direct confrontation with voting system advocates and canvass boards.

Gordon (Dem) lost to Coffman (Rep) in the 2006 Secretary of state election. Coffman is currently running for US Congress. If Coffman wins, the open Secretary of State position will be filled by Governor Bill Ritter (Dem) who is most likely to appoint Ken Gordon. Is there some conflict of interest going on here?

Colorado Voter Group has submitted a one page framework for the 2008 elections. It calls voting with paper ballots in polling locations, absentee and early voting using paper ballots, minimum number of DRE voting machines with the requirement that the electronic ballots be discarded and the printed votes on the VVPAT be duplicated onto paper ballots. It calls for significantly intensified verification and auditing to support the
counting of votes by hand or by optical scan equipment.

We are focusing on transparency and verifiability of every step. By detecting security and accuracy faults, we hope to minimize the effect of faulty DRE and optical scan equipment.
Colorado: Secretary of State's Campaign Advisers Also Represent E-Voting Firm PDF  | Print |  Email
By Myung Oak Kim and Lynn Bartels, Rocky Mountain News   
December 20, 2007

The political consulting company running Secretary of State Mike Coffman's congressional campaign also was working for a voting machine manufacturer when Coffman gave that company's devices his seal of approval on Monday.


Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold, was the only one of four voting machine companies to have all of its equipment conditionally approved for use in 2008 elections. Premier hired Phase Line Strategies, a Highlands Ranch consulting firm, in September to lobby on its behalf, records show.


Phase Line also is running Coffman's campaign to take over U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo's 6th Congressional District seat. Coffman said he hired Phase Line in November but has been talking to them since the summer.

"This is an outrageous conflict of interest," said Paul Hultin, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit that resulted in Coffman's certification process. Hultin said Premier's machines are known to be flawed and there was no credible basis for Coffman to certify them. "This explains what was going on," he said.


Coffman and a Phase Line official both deny that Premier got any special consideration in the lengthy review of Colorado's electronic voting systems. "There was absolutely no outside influences that affected any of my decisions on the vendors," Coffman said Wednesday night.


Chris Riggall, spokesman for Premier, said the company found out Wednesday night about Phase Line's connection to Coffman. "That was certainly news to us and of great concern to us . . . and effective tonight that relationship is terminated," he said.


"Oh my God!" said Claudia Kuhns, executive director of the Voter Integrity Project, an advocacy group that pushes for accurate and verifiable elections. "I thought (the certification process) was politically capricious before but now I really do. "When you have a situation where there's the appearance of impropriety, it really causes one to be completely distrustful of the entire process."


Read the Entire Article at Rocky Mountain News 

Colorado Voter Group Comments on Secretary of State's Decisions PDF  | Print |  Email
By Al Kolwicz, Colorado Voter Group   
December 20, 2007

After being forced to recertify suspect voting equipment by concerned public citizens, the Colorado Department of State decertified four models of paper-ballot vote counting equipment, and three models of electronic-ballot voting equipment.


This decision has created a major problem for county clerks and for electors in the 2008 primary and general elections. Many Colorado counties are affected by this decision.

The Secretary of State announced his intentions to seek changes to get around current Colorado law. These changes would allow him to (1) use California's certification for equipment that failed Colorado's tests; (2) waive the requirement for retesting equipment when "small" changes are made to the equipment; and (3) permit county clerks to request recertification and to appeal certification rejections.

There are several things wrong with the Secretary's plans. Coloradans have no influence over California tests. To bypass testing can be a road to disaster. Colorado electors have been excluded from the discussion to date, and the Secretary made no reference to including them now.

Colorado Voter Group Wants Polling Place Elections With a Few Adjustments PDF  | Print |  Email
By Colorado Voter Group   
November 19, 2007

Group concerned that back room deals will trade accuracy for convenience.

Colorado election officials and legislators are already discussing contingency plans. What happens if electronic vote recording and electronic vote counting equipment fail to pass certification tests?   
The Colorado Voter Group today published “Colorado Elections 2008 - Framework for Primary and General Elections”. It calls for a typical “polling place election” with a few changes. The changes are designed to reduce the risks associated with electronic vote recording and counting equipment.   

Precinct, early, absentee, and provisional voting are included in the plan. Accessible voting is available at early and precinct polling locations.   

One change requires that all votes must be recorded on paper ballots. Some of the uncertified voting equipment records votes on both an electronic ballot and a voter verifiable paper audit trail.  Votes from the audit trails will be transcribed by the bipartisan ballot duplication board to paper ballots before counting. If all votes are counted by hand, the framework recommends that ballot designs be optimized for accurate and verifiable hand-counting of votes.

Uncertified vote counting equipment may provisionally be used in precincts and central counting locations. But logic & accuracy tests, post election audits, and election canvassing must be significantly strengthened to verify that results are correct.  

According to Al Kolwicz, spokesperson for Colorado Voter Group, “This framework defines what is needed to conduct a trustworthy 2008 Election. It is sensitive to the realities of Colorado’s situation. It should be adopted, whether or not voting equipment is certified.” 

Colorado: Denver Still Counting Votes PDF  | Print |  Email
By Kieran Nicholson, The Denver Post   
November 07, 2007

Denver city officials and volunteers are still working on tabulating results from yet another painfully slow election. "Our last tally was 79,567 votes," said Stephanie O'Malley, Denver's clerk and recorder, this morning. "That leaves us with approximately 8,000 to be counted."


Late last night, about 20 members of Denver's SWAT team were called in to relieve volunteers who were too tired to go on counting. The city uses police officers to fill in because they already have the necessary background clearance to step right in and start counting.


O'Malley said there was no snafu in counting the votes, but there was a tech-services problem in posting the results to an election website.


Read the Entire Article at The Denver Post 

Report on Denver Electronic Pollbook Problems PDF  | Print |  Email
By Fred Hessler and Matt Smith   
January 09, 2007

Download the Full Report


Executive Summary 


The general election of November 7, 2006 in Denver was marred by significant technical and operational errors, as well as a seeming lack of needed oversight in some key areas. These errors and omissions led to unacceptably long waiting times for voters and an abandonment rate estimated at 18,000-20,000 voters (approximately 20% of the anticipated physical turnout on Election Day). In addition, seemingly preventable problems with the tabulation of absentee ballots led to significant operational stresses within the DEC and delayed reporting on key races and measures for several days.

The most direct cause of voter inconvenience on Election Day was the repeated failure of the “electronic poll book” (“ePollBook”) software, which hampered the efforts of election judges staffing voting centers to search for voters as they arrived, indicate that they had arrived to vote, and forward them to a machine to cast their votes. The ePollBook, developed exclusively for DEC use by Sequoia Voting Systems, is of decidedly sub-professional architecture and construction and appears never to have been tested in any meaningful manner by either the vendor or by the DEC. This software’s failure to accommodate Election Day traffic led to lengthy lines developing at the registration desks of voting centers while voting machines stood idle. Well-publicized media reports concerning line lengths were broadcast throughout the day and likely contributed to dampening turnout among voters without the time or determination to devote multiple hours to casting their votes.

Colorado: Mayor and City Council Launch Investigation into Election Troubles PDF  | Print |  Email
By Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper Press Release   
November 15, 2006
This Wednesday, November 15, 2006, at 3:00 p.m., Mayor John Hickenlooper (pictured at right) and City Council President Michael Hancock will convene the short-term, action-oriented investigative panel announced last week to quickly analyze Denver’s election problems and develop actionable solutions that are expected to form the foundation of a proposed charter reform amendment. The hour-and-a-half meeting will take place in the Mayor’s Office (City and County Building, 1437 Bannock, Suite 350), and will be the first of five weekly meetings for the panel. This quick timeline will provide ample time for City Council to consider any Charter change recommendations for the May 2007 municipal ballot.

The broad-based panel of community leaders will review feedback and hear testimony from groups affected by or with perspective on the November 7 election including technology experts, FairVote Colorado, the disabled community, and the political parties. Summaries of feedback from election judges and voters will be provided to the panel, whose members will also have the opportunity to hear public input at City Council’s December 2, 2006, public hearing on the election. More details on the investigative panel’s meeting schedule are included below.
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