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Report rips state’s vote readiness Coffman disputes concerns, says counties prepared

Resource type: News

Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO) |

by Myung Oak Kim Colorado is poorly prepared to handle electronic voting machine failures on Election Day, according to a national report issued Thursday. The report gave Colorado low marks because state regulations don’t say exactly how poll workers should address voting terminal malfunctions and don’t require counties to keep paper ballots as backup. Contingency plans submitted by county clerks to the Colorado secretary of state’s office are inconsistent, the report said. Secretary of State Mike Coffman downplayed the report and called its timing “suspect.” “Our office encouraged counties last year to be prepared with a paper ballot backup, and most will have that option in place,” Coffman said in a written statement. “Voters can rest assured that Colorado and our county clerks have followed the laws and the procedures in place to ensure a successful election.” The report, “Is America Ready to Vote? State Preparations for Voting Machine Problems in 2008,” was released by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, Common Cause and the Verified Voting Foundation. The study’s authors cited numerous machine malfunctions and loss of votes in previous elections across the country, none in Colorado, and predicted that some terminals will fail Nov. 4. “Unfortunately, we don’t know where,” the report said. “For this reason, it is imperative that every state prepare for system failures.” The report said Colorado had decent rules regarding post-election audits and tracking votes and ballots. But it criticized the fact that two major counties – Jefferson and Arapahoe – still use electronic machines that don’t have paper records. That means that if a machine malfunctions and votes are lost, there’s no way to recover them. A state law requires that all e-voting terminals have paper records by January 2010. The report put Colorado among the 10 least-prepared states. The others are Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Most counties now use a combination of paper ballots and electronic voting machines. E-voting became a subject of controversy last year when Coffman banned the use of thousands of 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. A group of local activists who sued the state to block e-voting have criticized Coffman’s decisions regarding the machines. Coffman has said he is confident the equipment can be trusted. INFOBOX: Here’s the gear What kind of voting equipment will be used on Nov. 4? * 55 counties: Voters will have a choice between casting a paper ballot or using an electronic voting machine with paper records. * Arapahoe County: Voters will cast ballots on electronic voting machines, some without paper records. Backup paper ballots will be on hand. * Jefferson County: Voters will choose between paper ballots or electronic voting machines, which don’t have a paper record. * Mesa, Prowers, Bent, Kiowa, Weld, Sedgwick and Phillips counties: Voters will use electronic voting machines with paper records.

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