Coloradans for Voting Integrity (cfvi.us) has examined the viewpoint expressed by Election Reform Commissioner Scott Gessler, and here we offer some further “differing views” on some of the points he made in his Rocky Mountain News opinion piece of February 23, 2009, titled “A Differing View.” Our comments are in blue interleaved in Commissioner Gessler’s article, which is in black. The points in his article that we discuss are highlighted in yellow.
OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE COLORADO GENERAL ASSEMBLY follow our response to Commissioner Gessler.
Note: This is a Colorado Voter Group press release on signing of Colorado HB 12-1036 (CORA ballot transparency)
June 7, 2012
Boulder – Colorado Governor Hickenlooper has signed the controversial, two-subject HB-1036 which deals with open records and elections.
By shielding all election records, including untraceable ballots, from public inspection, the bill blocks the public from looking for election discrepancies until after election results have been certified. “After certification is too late to constructively correct any errors or fraud we may discover,” says Mary Eberle of Coloradans for Voting Integrity.
A secretive non-profit organization called Colorado County Clerks Association lobbied heavily to get the bill passed and signed into law. A band of citizens and non profit public interest groups energetically resisted the efforts of at least five professional lobbyists working for the CCCA and professional lobbyists working for other associations of officials through the legislative session.
Harvie Branscomb is an unpaid election integrity advocate from Eagle County, and a Colorado Voter Group Trustee. He followed the election part of the bill from its inception to today's signing. Branscomb spent weeks tracking the bill with frequent trips to the Capitol, and repeated attempts to communicate with legislators and public. He asked the Legislature to preserve election transparency by giving Coloradans the constitutionally mandated "secret ballot" voting method that calls for every ballot to be untraceable and available to count in public. He wound up instead working to stop a bill that hides from citizens and the press our tabulated sometimes traceable ballots but allows the clerks and other election officials to see them and "interested parties" to see and copy them.
Branscomb is disappointed and says, “Colorado elections have gone behind closed doors through increased mechanization and centralization. Digital scanning technology is just beginning to make sharing of untraceable ballots cheap and easy. This no time to shutter a window through which citizens could do their own independent count of an election contest."
Branscomb asks: "Clerks and legislators were unwilling to give us even one "Sunshine Day" to access untraceable voted ballots during the period when canvass boards are checking election quality. Why not?”
(see attached http://cfvi.us/HB1036notes)
June 1, 2012
Re: Request for Veto of HB 1036
Dear Governor Hickenlooper,
Do we have to argue about the value of putting more eyes and ears on public elections? Must we remind ourselves how sunshine laws are intended to empower citizens who wish to engage in oversight of government and industries that affect their lives?
In the area of elections citizen oversight has helped produce more accurate, accessible and secure elections.
You surely understand that the Colorado State Constitution and the Colorado Open Records Act defend the right of members of the electorate to inspect election records, including voted ballots.
CORA requests should be honored in a timely manner, not after the election has been certified, for a number of reasons: to help a candidate decide if a recount is going to be productive, to be used as evidence to justify an election contest, to identify ballots that should be added to Colorado’s upcoming risk-limiting audit, and to provide technical feedback. No member of the electorate should be excluded from reviewing untraceable tabulated ballots before election certification.
By utilizing all eyes and ears, especially those with technical backgrounds, local election officials will consistently improve election systems and improve confidence in election accuracy. HB 1036 closes those eyes and ears during the critical period of time before the election is certified.
Please veto HB 1036.
CFVI would be happy to provide you with supporting documents upon request. Don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss this further.
CFVI President, 720-352-4093
By John Tomasic
Friday, June 01, 2012 at 11:32 am
Gov. John Hickenlooper is facing a decision over House Bill 1036. His veto will protect your right as a citizen to verify results of upcoming elections.
Here's a link to communicate with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.
Under Jurisdiction—Please Select, enter "Legislation". Then enter "Other" as the bill number, unless HB12-1036 is now showing in the list. Put "Please VETO HB12-1036 and preserve election transparency in Colorado" in the Subject line and choose "Against". It is better not to check the “consider this message to be confidential” box at the end.. Here is the pre-formatted letter if you prefer to use one as a message. Edit as you wish. Sign your name as you wish.
Dear Governor Hickenlooper,
I respectfully urge you to veto House Bill 12-1036. Although the bill makes clear, as did a recent Court of Appeals ruling, that the public has a right to view voted ballots as long as each voter's privacy with respect to the ballot is preserved, the bill's language seeks to block access for excessively long periods (and thus past the time when inspection might indicate that a recount should be undertaken). The bill's language would further interfere with verifiability by hiding or redacting ballots just before inspection instead of ensuring that all tabulated ballots are safely impossible to trace to the voter either by officials or by the public.
Only if you sign the bill, partisan elected clerks may find themselves individually deciding that while traceability of ballots is ok for tabulation and even for defined "interested parties," some information must be redacted for inspection by the general public.
Leaving such critical decisions to one person's discretion, without clear standards, oversight or a route to a remedy outside of the courts, is problematic. HB 12-1036's language promotes neither ballot anonymity nor electoral transparency. What we have now in CORA is better than the effect of HB 12-1036; the recent Court of Appeals ruling already reaffirms the basic right to inspect anonymous voted ballots.Please veto HB 12-1036. Ask next year's legislature to work for a better bill with clear standards for protecting secrecy in voting and meaningful electoral transparency.