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Media Release: Verified Voting Welcomes Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams to its Board of Advisors

Wayne Williams: “I’m excited to share my expertise so that we can continue to strengthen our nation’s election systems and voters’ confidence in those systems.”

Verified Voting, a leading national organization focused solely on making our voting technology secure, welcomes Wayne Williams to its Advisory Board. Williams, while serving as Colorado Secretary of State from 2015 to 2019, adopted new voting standards requiring voter-verifiable paper ballots and implemented the nation’s first statewide risk-limiting audit (RLA) in Colorado.

“Voter confidence in elections is critical for Americans’ faith in our democratic republic. The election reforms we adopted in Colorado, including paper ballots and the nation’s first full risk-limiting audit, helped encourage Coloradans to vote in record numbers. I’m excited to share my enthusiasm and election expertise on the Verified Voting Board of Advisors so that we can continue to strengthen our nation’s election systems and voters’ confidence in those systems,” said Williams. Read More

Editorials: Assessing the Minnesota Caucuses – Final Thoughts On Why It is Times to Scrap Them | Schultz’s Take

Minnesota’s February 7, political caucuses meant something this year…sort of. This year they were part of a trifecta of non-binding events that included the Colorado caucus and the Missouri primary that awarded no delegates but nonetheless had a significant media impact in rendering Rick Santorum a viable challenger to Mitt Romney.  In winning these three states the political world heralded that the party activists had again repudiated Romney.  Thus, Minnesota’s caucuses had a signal effect even if no delegates were awarded. But there are real problems with the caucus process in Minnesota and across the country.  Criticism of the Iowa caucus is growing as arguments are again mounted that it should not be first int nation since no delegates are awarded and its demographics are not representative of the country.  Read More

Voting Blogs: Small Isn’t Always Beautiful: New Data Suggests Lack of Scale Affects Election Costs in Smaller Jurisdictions | Doug Chapin/PEEA

In case you missed it over the holidays – I know I did – on December 27 Pew’s Election Data Dispatches looked at some new research on election costs in California and Colorado. Both studies found – as similar research had in North Dakota – that less-populous counties had a higher cost per registered voter. More specifically (from the Dispatch):

In California, the study examined election expenditures between 1992 and 2008 and found a 1 percent increase in county population correlated with a 0.05 percent decrease in expenditures per registered voter. For example, San Diego County had an average cost of $6.57 per voter, while Modoc County, the third-smallest county in the state, spent $18.07 per voter. Similarly, the Colorado report found the average cost per voter in 2010 for small counties was $10.21 versus $4.95 for medium counties and $4.92 for large counties.  Read More

Editorials: Maurice Emmer and Harvie Branscomb: Why insist on secrecy but dismiss anonymity? | AspenTimes.com

We both write repeatedly about the importance of election transparency. We present facts. We don’t make things up. Stories about revealing ballot “secrets” often sound like scary tales told to children. They are designed to frighten, not inform. Jack Johnson’s scary story recently published in another paper might trigger your instinct to fight, but that’s what fiction and political propaganda are intended to do.

Johnson’s column, and recent announcements by the city of Aspen, misconstrue election and open-records law as well as misrepresent the Marks v. Koch case and the Court of Appeals’ unanimous opinion in favor of ballot transparency. As untrue assertions have become Aspen’s norm, here we try to separate fact from fiction. Read More

Editorials: Colorado county clerks crying wolf | Vincent Carroll/The Denver Post

Get ready for a battle royal over the integrity of elections in Colorado — and just in time for this state’s apparently pivotal role in the 2012 presidential race. If the clash shapes up as expected, lawmakers will have to choose sides between a would-be election priesthood exempt from public oversight — I’m referring to the county clerks — and advocates for a fully open and accountable government.

The clerks, you see, are in a panic about a recent appeals court ruling that says voted ballots are public documents under the Colorado Open Records Act, so long as “the identity of the voter cannot be discerned from the face of that ballot.”

The court’s definition should include the vast majority of ballots, assuming election officials and voters follow the law. But if you listen to the clerks, you’d think the opposite. Embracing Chicken Little as their role model, the clerks’ association issued a statement after the ruling, claiming it “has removed the curtain from our voting booths. Most Coloradans believe their votes should be a secret from their friends, coworkers and even spouses, but today’s ruling means Coloradans’ personal choices can be seen by anyone who asks.” The clerks’ statement is either contemptible fear-mongering or an admission that they supervise a system that comprehensively thumbs its nose at the state constitution’s mandate of anonymous ballots. Read More

Voting Blogs: A Win for Voters Is Colorado Secretary of State Gessler’s Second Loss | Jonathan Brater/Huffington Post

Across the country, legislators and political operatives seem determined to make it more difficult for American citizens to vote. Since January, more than a dozen states passed a variety of different laws and executive actions that will make it far more difficult for millions to vote. Seven states, including Texas and South Carolina, will now require voters to present specified government-issued photo IDs to vote. Florida has gone after organizations like the League of Women Voters, threatening them with huge fines if they try to help register citizens to vote unless they comply with a new set of byzantine state rules. Georgia and Arizona are trying to knock down the Voting Rights Act, the most successful piece of civil rights legislation, in a court challenge. And Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler made headlines with the false claim that thousands of non-citizens were voting in Colorado. Last week, Secretary Gessler was at it again. This time he asked a court to essentially freeze the Denver electorate to those who voted in 2010. The court refused.

Colorado gives counties the option of conducting certain elections by “mail ballot.” In those elections, there are no traditional polling places; instead, citizens vote by mailing in ballots sent to them by the state. Colorado is holding such an election this November, and the Denver County Clerk and Recorder had planned to take the unremarkable step of sending ballots to all registered voters in the County, as she has for the last five election cycles. Secretary Gessler sued the Denver County Clerk and Recorder to make her stop, arguing that she may only send ballots to voters who voted in the last election. This move, had it prevailed, could have kept thousands of eligible and registered Colorado citizens from participating in this November’s elections, for no good reason. Read More

Voting Blogs: The Latest Battle in the War on Voting | Brennan Center for Justice

A Denver judge ruled on October 7 that the Denver Clerk and Recorder can mail ballots to “inactive” voters who missed one election, as she had planned. There will be a later legal proceeding to fully consider the issues. All across the country legislators and political operatives seem to be determined to make it more difficult for American citizens to vote.

Since January, more than a dozen states passed a variety of different laws and executive actions that will make it far more difficult for millions to vote. Seven states, including Texas and South Carolina, will now require voters to present certain government-issued photo IDs to vote. Florida has gone after organizations like the League of Women Voters, threatening them with huge fines if they try to help register citizens to vote unless they comply with a new set of byzantine state rules. Georgia and Arizona are trying to knock down the Voting Rights Act, the most successful piece of civil rights legislation, in a court challenge. And Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler made headlines with the false claim that thousands of non-citizens were voting in Colorado. Now Secretary Gessler is at it again, in a move that — if it stands — could essentially freeze the electorate to those who voted in 2010.

Colorado gives counties the option of conducting certain elections by “mail ballot.” In those elections, there are no traditional polling places; instead, citizens vote by mailing in ballots sent to them by the state. Colorado is holding such an election this November, and the Denver County Clerk and Recorder had planned to take the unremarkable step of sending ballots to all registered voters in the County, as she has for the last five election cycles. Secretary Gessler is suing the Denver County Clerk and Recorder to make her stop, arguing that she may only send ballots to voters who voted in the last election. This move, if it prevails, will keep thousands of eligible and registered Colorado citizens from participating in this November’s elections, for no good reason. Read More

Voting Blogs: Colorado Absentee Ballot Fight: Data Can Help This! | Election Updates

In the ongoing battle over absentee ballots in Colorado, we’ve heard the claims about disenfranchised military voters and we’ve heard the charges about partisanship.

Unfortunately, what we haven’t heard is some hard factual information that compares ballot return rates among active and inactive voters. Andrew Cole, spokesperson for Secretary of State Scott Gessler is quoted as saying “there were thousands of ballots mailed out to inactive voters in 2010 that were unaccounted for.”

I’ve tried to answer this question at the Denver County elections office. Total registration, active and inactive, was 297,558 according to the spreadsheet available here: Of that total, 22,696 are “Inactive – Fail to vote”, or 7.63% of the total. Read More

Editorials: Colorado’s besieged clerks | Vincent Carroll/The Denver Post

Wherever you go in Colorado, the most public-be-damned civil servant is likely to be the county clerk.

I’ve reached this conclusion with regret, since my experience with clerks over many years, without fail, has been pleasant and fruitful. But the clerks this year have dug themselves into a stance that endangers the integrity of elections. Moreover, to protect their monopoly on access to voted ballots — a monopoly to which they clearly have no right under the Colorado Open Records Act — they are trying to scare the public with lurid tales of how voter anonymity is at risk.

Back in March, you may recall, the clerks association denounced a bid by Secretary of State Scott Gessler to conduct an official, public recount of a contested election in Saguache County, claiming his “proposal sets a dangerous precedent.” The clerks’ real fear, however, was not that Gessler might look over their shoulder but that he would let the public do so, too. And he did — once a district judge ruled in August that “voted ballots are election records” under the open records law, permitting the recount to proceed. Read More

Voting Blogs: Denver’s Inactive Ballot Flap: The Difficulty of Hitting a Moving Target | Doug Chapin/PEEA

On Monday, Colorado’s Secretary of State threatened to sue the Clerk/Recorder for the City and County of Denver if it followed through with plans to mail 2011 ballots to over 55,000 Denver voters classified as “inactive” because they failed to vote in 2010.

The dispute, which is vaguely reminiscent of the recent Battle of Cuyahoga over Ohio absentee ballot applications, once again pits a state official determined to enforce state law against a local official who seeks to continue a practice aimed at assisting voters.

What’s interesting in Colorado, however, is that the law is somewhat uncertain – which means that both parties in this dispute (Donnybrook in Denver? Rocky Mountain Rumble? Mile-High Melee?) might not have the full weight of authority on their side. Read More

Voting Blogs: Saguache County Case Asks: Whose Election is it Anyway? | PEEA

Lost in the national news about Congressional hearings and high-profile fights in Maine, Ohio and South Carolina is a running controversy in one Colorado county that raises fascinating questions about our system of elections and who’s ultimately in charge. Saguache County, located southwest of Denver, is huge in size (Rhode Island and Delaware could fit inside) but tiny in population (6,108 in the latest Census).

In November 2010, the County’s general election featured, in addition to federal and statewide races, a re-election contest for the County Clerk and Recorder position held by Melinda Myers. On Election Night, results appeared to show that Myers, a Democrat, had had lost to her GOP challenger Carla Gomez. A few days later, though, Myers’ office announced that her office had discovered an error and conducted a retabulation that resulted in her winning re-election. Read More

Editorials: The sky didn’t fall after all | The Denver Post

There, that wasn’t so terrible, was it? Democracy didn’t sputter out when citizen volunteers were allowed to inspect — and yes, handle — ballots cast by residents of Saguache County in a recent recount of last fall’s contested results.

Unwashed barbarians did not desecrate the sanctuary of our election priesthood, as Colorado’s county clerks all but predicted earlier this year when they were denouncing the proposal. “We believe ballots are sacred,” the president of the Colorado County Clerks Association declared in commentary published in The Post, adding that “the integrity of our elections is worth fighting for.”

Yes, the integrity of our elections is worth fighting for. And that’s why the precedent in Saguache County is so important. Read More

Editorials: Colorado Congressman Coffman’s attack on voting rights | The Denver Post

Rep. Mike Coffman’s intent to repeal the language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act is not only ill-conceived but places the rights of millions of U.S. citizens in jeopardy.

In 1975, Congress expanded the Voting Rights Act by adding language assistance amendments. The effort was spearheaded by Sen. Walter Mondale, D-Minn. Congress added Sections 203 and 4(f) to provide targeted oral or written language assistance to American citizens of voting age who were not fluent in English after finding that the denial of the right to vote among limited English-proficient citizens was “directly related to the unequal educational opportunities afforded them, resulting in high illiteracy and low voting participation.” According to the 2000 Census, three-quarters of all voters covered by Section 203 were native-born, voting-age citizens.

Section 203, the part of the act that Coffman wants to remove, is based on the 14th and 15th Amendments, which guarantee “equal protection and the right to vote without regard to race, color, or previous conditions of servitude.” Consistent with our constitution, Section 203 “prohibits discriminatory practices and procedures that effectively exclude language minorities from participating in the electoral process and provides for appropriate remedies.” Read More

Editorials: Court made the right call on Saguache ballot battle | The Denver Post

A recent court ruling that paves the way for a public examination of the ballots in a controversial Saguache County election is the right legal call and appropriate public policy.

At the heart of the matter is a messy election in which the Saguache county clerk, in charge of tallying votes in the November contest, was losing her own race on election night but then prevailed the next day after she retabulated the votes. The outcome of another race changed as well.

The dramatic turn of events drew attention, as you might imagine, and accusations of “stolen” elections. Inquiries ultimately found that procedural problems did not affect the outcome of the election. Nevertheless, acrimony remained. This was the backdrop for a proposal earlier this year by Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican, who planned to hold a public review of the ballots in an effort to rebuild confidence in the system. Read More