Letters to the Editor

Paper voting errors more easily tracked

Dear Editor,

The Colorado Election Reform Commission (CERC), consisting of 11 voluntary but hard-working appointees, has a new report to the Colorado Legislature that “seeks to look forward.” The CERC report is, in fact, looking backwards, continuing to respond to a heavily federally funded mandate known as the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA).

Since 2002, special interests, including private election technology vendors along with charismatic and overworked county clerks, Colorado Secretaries of State, and members of assorted Commissions have responded to HAVA by deforming our means of casting, and then interpreting, tabulating, and auditing voter intent, better described as measuring the collective will of the people.

Not long ago, citizens met together to vote and to count their own paper ballots. In 2009 this is made to sound almost quaint, as if from colonial America, after high-tech climbed in bed with local bureaucracies and locked them into labyrinthine laws with millions spent to replace what was once as simple and transparent as a ballot box. Disabled groups supposedly got the benefit of this change over to electronic voting systems, while all of us were asked to approve new forms of faith-based voting. We lost some key protections, and judging by the Colorado Election Reform Commission’s recommendations, the trend continues.

Some Coloradans may be asked to vote on un-certifiable voting equipment through the 2013 elections. We may soon be asked to abandon the tradition of voting on Election Day, and abandon the tradition and familiarity of voting at a nearby precinct polling place. Some of us may be asked to relinquish our rights to secret ballots and rights to data privacy. County election officials may have new permission to ignore pre-existing requirements to collect verifiable records of each vote.

Many of the new proposals claim to save tax dollars. Some Colorado legislators will admonish us: they say we can no longer afford the same level of democratic safeguards and options as before; and that we must downsize and outsource our democracy. They insist that the highly computerized, sanitized and centralized version of voting is
what Coloradans prefer and must accept.

Colorado should not be made victim to alarmism or bullying from any side of the aisle when defining what is technologically and fiscally feasible in re-writing our election law: who can vote, where we vote, when we vote, and how we vote. Yet fearful county clerks and big-microphone privatization proponents continually yell fire whenever newly failed electronic voting systems are outed for their inadequacies, poor performance, and vulnerabilities. Many of us know that electronic voting systems are designed to fail to show evidence of failure. They only properly recognize the voter’s intent when the voter understands how to operate them, and when the machine functions correctly.

The big picture on this: election flaws happen. But human errors on paper tend to be smaller and more easily tracked than centralized computerized errors. Those who tell us otherwise ignore recent election history.

Voters can go to www.leg.state.co.us for contact information for their legislators.

Harvie Branscomb
Eagle County Canvass Board
Colorado Voter Group

Joe Richey
Vice-President
Coloradans for Voting Integrity