III. Elections Clean-Up
The threshold calculation that determines whether the winning margin is small enough to require a recount (1-10.5-102) needs a clarification so that Colorado’s election results are as likely to be recounted as those of other states. Neither a high incidence of under-voting nor the additional votes cast in races where there are more than two candidates should arbitrarily make a recount less likely.
B. Recount Method, Testing, and Audit
1. Existing statute offers several alternative routes to avoid using a hand count in a recount. The current approach illogically allows a recount to use the same scanners or other counting machines as used in the election.
2. However, because hand counting in the presence of watchers representing any interested parties is the most transparent and verifiable approach, recounts should be performed primarily by hand with limited but appropriate use of calculators and spreadsheets for tabulation, and with full visual and auditory access for authorized watchers and observers.
3. Recounts, whether or not performed by machine, require a post-count audit.
C. Accuracy of Hand Counting
Accurate hand counting is required to conduct audits and pre- and post-election tests of voting systems, as well as for recounts where highest accuracy is required.
1. The C.R.S. 1-1-104 definition of “manual count” needs a correction. Definition 22.7 states that “‘Manual count’ means a count conducted by hand or by scanning a bar code.” For the purposes of election transparency, “or by scanning a bar code” should be deleted.
2. The SOS should conduct an evaluation of accurate hand-count methods and provide education and training materials for the most accurate and efficient hand-count methods.
D. Procedures for Recount
1. Hand counting should be the default method for a recount because it can be demonstrated that no existing machine in conjunction with a resolution board can accurately count every allowable expression of voter intent on a ballot. A classic example is the voter who marks by mistake the wrong candidate choice, then marks over the target with an X to negate that choice, and then circles the chosen candidate name without actually marking the target for that candidate. This type of vote—increasingly common because replacements for spoiled ballots are not available at home—cannot be correctly counted by any existing implementation of optical scan counting, with or without extra attention to “undervotes.” This example alone proves that machine counting can never be more “accurate” than hand counting.
2. Statute does not specify the accuracy of the pre-recount logic and accuracy test that is currently required to be performed before enabling use of a machine voting system in place of hand counting in a recount. To test a maximum of only 50 ballots before central recounting, as mandated by current rules, is embarrassingly inadequate.
3. Statute should require that any system used for a recount (C.R.S. 1-10.5-102) should have sufficient accuracy to produce a credible election outcome with a one-vote victory margin. The exception for “voter error” embedded in current statute (C.R.S. 1-10.5-102(3)(b)) should be removed. This exception allows a machine recount to fail to reflect voter intent in certain cases, thus potentially producing an incorrect outcome even after a recount.
4. Furthermore, there cannot be meaningful recounts or audits with the unauditable machines still in use in some counties. Statute should provide an incentive for all counties to buy voting systems based on paper ballots that allow for recounts and audits and encourage the purchase of ballot-marking devices to satisfy HAVA requirements.
5. Detailed procedures for recounts, including projected costs, should be established by the Secretary of State at least 30 days prior to Election Day.
E. Precinct Polling Places and Voting Service Centers
Statute should specify the minimum required number of precinct polling places, drop-off locations, and vote service centers in consideration of the total number of active and inactive voters in a given area, as well as the geography of the area.
F. County Clerk’s Name Twice on Ballot
Colorado has a law (C.R.S. 1-5-403(4)) limiting the appearance of a candidate’s name to only one place on the ballot. The law also requires the designated election official’s signature on the ballot (C.R.S. 1-5-407(1)). This is an inconsistency. Some county clerks are in the habit of violating state law by including not only their names twice on the ballot when running for election but sometimes three times—the third instance as a printed name followed by their title (prohibited by C.R.S. 1-5-407(4)). Either remove the requirement for the official’s signature on the ballot or include an exception within the law to permit the signature, but not the printed name. It is probably best to just require the county seal at the top of the ballot without the clerk’s name or signature to achieve fairness.
G. Vacancies in General Assembly or County Commissioner Offices
Existing statutes (C.R.S. 1-3-103(1)(d), C.R.S. 1-12-203, and C.R.S. 1-12-206) are somewhat vague about how vacancy committees are formed and operate.
1. The makeup and minimum size of a vacancy committee should be specified—e.g., a minimum of 10 electors registered within the district, affiliated for a minimum of 6 months in the manner of the member to be replaced.
2. The notice of the vacancy committee meeting currently has to be sent only to the committee members although statute requires the meeting to be “open to the public.” Advance public notice of any meetings ought to be required.
3. Candidates are required to be of the same political party as the most recent affiliation of the previous member, but there should be a length-of-affiliation requirement, e.g., one year.
4. The vacancy committee to replace an unaffiliated member is the one specified on the original petition for nomination of the member to be replaced, i.e., such a vacancy committee is likely to include only close friends of that member. Recent events in HD61 give rise to concerns about vacancies of unaffiliated members of the General Assembly.
Click here for section IV: Mitigating Threats: http://cfvi.us/?q=node/149