Grand County’s voting machines among those that fail statewide certification tests
December 19, 2007
A recent decision by Secretary of State Mike Coffman could lead to a significant Grand County expense.
In September 2006, a district court judge ruled that the election equipment certification process used by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office was inadequate.
Certain voting equipment had to be retested before the 2008 primary election, the court ordered.
Monday, Coffman announced his findings.
The same brand of equipment used by Grand County and about 46 other Colorado counties failed to meet the testing criteria.
Other brands also failed recertification, affecting all but a handful of Colorado counties.
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Grand County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene, who informed county commissioners about the possible setback Tuesday, said the county purchased the voting equipment manufactured by Hart in June 2006. The county paid $50,000 out-of-pocket for the equipment; a state grant covered the remaining $111,000 of the cost.
If efforts by counties to “Request a Reconsideration” of Coffman’s decision fail within the next 30 days, the county could face having to reinvest in new voting equipment before August primaries.
That, or the county may have to hand-count ballots, Rosene told commissioners.
The county-owned Hart Intercivic optical scan devices, eScan (which read marks on ballots), failed Coffman’s test because “results showed that they could not accurately count ballots,” according to statements made by the Coffman’s office.
During a press conference Tuesday, it was announced that the failure rate on the Hart equipment was 1 percent, meaning out of every 100 ballots counted, one was inaccurate.
Rosene said that in three elections using the equipment, she’s encountered zero inaccuracies.
“We are required to do a post-election audit after each election,” she said. “We take (the ballots) out of ballot box, hand-count votes and run them through the scanner again. We have never once not had them match.”
A type of county-owned electronic voting machine for the visually impaired or persons who are unable to vote with their hands, called eSlate, passed the recertification, but with conditions.
“I’m not sure what the conditions are,” Rosene said Tuesday.
Rosene said Grand and other counties who use this and other Hart equipment are scheduled to have a meeting with the vendor and the secretary of state on Thursday to “talk about and have a further explanation and understanding of why the equipment was decertified and what created the conditional decertification on other equipment,” Rosene said.
Under state law, all electronic voting equipment purchased after May 2004 had to be tested and certified by the secretary of state after being federally certified.
“My job, as the secretary of state, is to follow the law and the law requires my office to test the electronic voting equipment used in Colorado to make sure that these systems are secure and can accurately count every vote as set forth by the standards established in state law and mandated by a court order,” Coffman said.
The Colorado Legislature, which convenes next month, can also decide to modify the requirements set forth in the state’s certification law to allow decertified equipment to be used in the 2008 election.
“I had to strictly follow the law along with the court order,” Coffman said. “If I’m too lenient in determining what passes then I risk having the state being taken to court by activists groups who will ask for an injunction on the use of electronic voting machines for the 2008 election, and if I exceed the requirements of state law and the court order, then I will be sued by the vendors who manufacture and sell the equipment.”
To see the voting equipment certification results, visit http://www.elections.colorado.gov/DDefault.aspx?tid=501.
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