Voting machines banned |

Voting machines banned

Paper, absentee ballot equipment in Moffat County decertified

Jerry Raehal

A Hart Intercivic representative displays his company's electronic voting equipment to Routt County officials and residents in this file photo. On Monday, Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman decertified some of Hart's voting equipment, including the paper ballot counter used by Routt County.

There was a pause.

Then, frustration, shock and, at times, disbelieving laughter could be heard in Elaine Sullivan’s voice.

“I’m exhausted already,” the Moffat County clerk and recorder said moments after finding out Mike Coffman, the Colorado secretary of state, decertified some of the electronic equipment the county uses to count votes. “I’m looking at this stuff, and I just cannot believe it.”

Coffman released the decision Monday, and its ripple effect could be felt throughout the state, said Lila Herod, chief deputy clerk and recorder, since several counties could be forced to replace all their electronic voting equipment.

The local impact is not as bad, but it still could be significant. The Hart InterCivic systems used in Moffat County to count paper and absentee ballots have been decertified for failing to count ballots correctly, according to the secretary of state.

Paper and absentee ballots account for 40 percent to 50 percent of the ballots cast in Moffat County, Sullivan said.

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The decision leaves little time for the county to prepare for the 2008 election, Herod said.

“Right now, today,” she said, “we could not count any paper ballots. : This is going to cost the state a huge amount of money.”

Colorado’s county clerks and members of the General Assembly are scheduled to meet today in Denver to hear an explanation from Coffman about the recertification process and results.

Herod and Sullivan stand behind the Hart InterCivic equipment, citing its accuracy since purchasing the five scanning units for $5,000 each in June 2006.

They also expressed frustration.

“When (Coffman) does something like this, it makes us look like we chose the wrong equipment, that it is unsatisfactory, it isn’t accurate,” Sullivan said. “And that isn’t the case, and it wasn’t the case when we went to any of those vendor demonstrations. They had a rep from the Secretary of State’s Office who was working for us – they were the pricing element of the whole thing and the grant process – and he was really out there, more or less telling the clerks in this area that Hart was the one to go with.

“It’s not faulty equipment. It’s very accurate equipment.”

Coffman was forced to recertify Colorado’s voting equipment because of a Denver district judge ruling in the 2006 Conroy vs. Dennis case, which found flaws in the state’s original 2005-06 certification process, according to a Colorado County Clerk’s Association press release.

A letter sent out by Hart InterCivic reads, in part, that its equipment meets federal standards, which are currently in place in most states.

It goes on to say that, “Voting system evaluations should be part of federal and state standards that are defined before voting systems are designed to meet those standards. When standards, or the interpretations thereof, change after a voting system is already in place, it puts the certification of the voting system at risk.”

The letter also said the company would work with the state of Colorado to meet those needs.

Hart can appeal.

But, where does Moffat County go from here?

“That’s a huge question,” Herod said.

She added, “I could be speaking totally out of line, but I’m hopeful that Hart has some sort of solution to either upgrade these systems satisfactorily or something else that they are willing to do.”