Moffat County Clerk and Recorder Elaine Sullivan holds a Mobile Ballot Box Thursday. The MBBs store information from electronic voting booths as well as from scanners of paper ballots.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Moffat County Clerk and Recorder Elaine Sullivan holds a Mobile Ballot Box Thursday. The MBBs store information from electronic voting booths as well as from scanners of paper ballots.

Secretary of state looks at recertification

Clerk and recorder: No word from secretary

— Earlier this week, Moffat County Clerk and Recorder Elaine Sullivan was facing what she called "a nightmare."

After Mike Coffman, Colorado secretary of state, decertified some of the state's electronic voting equipment, Sullivan and Chief Deputy Clerk and Recorder Lila Herod were bracing for a presidential election conducted almost exclusively in paper ballots - an estimated 6,000 paper ballots, which Sullivan said could take up to three days to count by hand.

An alternative may be available for Sullivan and other county clerk and recorders across the state.

But that alternative isn't definitive.

Although Coffman said he has "more confidence" in paper ballots than electronic ones, he's hoping to make electronic voting machines available at the next election.

The secretary of state is scheduled to issue a statement next week concerning upgrades to the decertified voting equipment, including scanners used to count paper ballots.

The proposed upgrades "should fix the problems we've identified" in the equipment, Coffman said.

On Dec. 17, the secretary of state announced that voting equipment from several manufacturers would be decertified, saying the equipment failed to accurately count ballots.

The decision included electronic voting machines, tally programs and paper ballot scanners produced by Hart InterCivic systems - equipment used in Moffat County.

On Wednesday, Coffman announced a recommendation to the state Legislature that paper ballots be used for the 2008 presidential election, a press release from the Secretary of State reported.

"I have more confidence in having votes cast on paper ballots at the polls rather than relying exclusively on electronic voting machines or voting by mail," Coffman wrote in the release.

Still, an all-paper ballot election isn't what Coffman has in mind.

If all goes according to plan, the upcoming election will be voted predominately, but not exclusively, on paper, Coffman said.

Per Federal law, one electronic voting machine is required at each polling place statewide to accommodate for individuals with disabilities.

The machines would also be available to other voters.

"You simply can't relegate (electronic voting machines) to people on an as-need basis," he said.

Technology upgrades may also bring the optical scanners that count paper ballots, eliminating the need for a hand count.

Before any of the voting equipment can be recertified, the Legislature must vote to reopen the certification process, said Rich Coolidge, Colorado Secretary of State spokesman.

The time required for that process is still unknown, Coolidge said, adding, "The Secretary wants to move forward with this as soon as possible."

Neither Coffman nor a representative from his office have contacted the Moffat County Clerk and Recorder since the decertification announcement.

"We know what we've read in the paper and that's it," Sullivan said.

Coffman was scheduled to discuss the issue with Sullivan during two telephone conferences last week but he failed to attend.

The recent decertification cast undue doubt on the Moffat County Clerk and Recorder's office, Sullivan said.

She isn't convinced the voting equipment is faulty.

"I would go back for Hart in a minute," Sullivan said. "We wouldn't have purchased the equipment if we weren't confident" it would work for us.

The county purchased the equipment in 2006 under a different Secretary of State to comply with federal mandates. Election officials relied on paper ballots exclusively before.

"We were very happy with the paper ballots and the counting system we had," Herod said. "We bought this system as it was certified by the Secretary of State in 2006. And now, because there's a new secretary, it's not certified.

"It's very frustrating."

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