Aspen voter claims voting machine flaw, clerk says it’s impossible | VailDaily.com

Aspen voter claims voting machine flaw, clerk says it’s impossible

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Electronic polling booths at the Aspen Jewish Community Center.

An Aspen woman claimed Tuesday that the voting machine she used at the Jewish Center was flawed and auto-selected the Democratic ticket before she was able to cast her ballot.

Michelle Lawson said she went to vote at about 1 p.m. and instantly realized something wasn't right. "It's all checked off," she said of her ballot. As she scrolled through she realized Hillary Clinton and other Democrats were checked before she physically indicated her choices. She was unable to see how many candidates were selected.

She complained about the issue to election judges, who investigated her claim. They said they never saw that type of issue come up before. After some time discussing the problem, an election judge decided they would print and void her ballot and issue her a new one.

Lawson said the second ballot came up correctly — that is, unmarked — on the voting machine's screen. She cast her ballot but remains concerned about the incident. She wonders if her ballot was correctly recorded, if other voters encountered the same problem and whether it affects the integrity of the local tabulation.

Lawson said she tried to discuss the issue further with election judges, but they acted like they wanted to avoid the whole issue.

"They wanted me to recast my ballot and leave," Lawson said.

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Poll watchers, appointed by both political parties, also seemed to want to avoid the problem, she said.

Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill was skeptical that the voting machine was selecting candidates.

"That's not possible," she insisted. "I don't know how that could possibly happen."

When activated for a new voter, the voting machines are programmed to display the ballot, she said.

Vos Caudill said her office was in contact with election judges and poll watchers at the Jewish Center and discussed the alleged problem. The judges felt Lawson's behavior was "inappropriate," according to Vos Caudill.

"They said she was physically upset and caused a commotion," she said. The judges are volunteers from the community who are nominated by the two major political parties.

The poll watchers "each felt that person was planted," Vos Caudill said.

She said she was "saddened" that the alleged incident casts a bad light on the vendor providing the machines, the judges, poll watchers and community.

Lawson said she was "flabbergasted" by Vos Caudill's reaction. She said she was simply trying to vote in the community where she has lived for nearly 30 years and reported a problem she encountered.

"I literally feel sick to my stomach," Lawson said. "I just wanted to be a good citizen."

Vos Caudill said later Tuesday that she had called the national operations director of the vendor providing the voting machine. The company representative was perplexed about the issue and said they had never encountered that type of issue before.

Vos Caudill said the voting machine that Lawson used was "confiscated" and would be examined by the vendor.

Lawson's story appeared to be corroborated by an Aspen man's Facebook post Tuesday. Spencer Martin wrote on the Deals of Aspen site that he was a "first-hand witness to a fraudulent voter machine and/or system." He recounted what he saw happen to "the woman voting next to me."

"The woman was upset that they were not addressing the larger issue of a machine or card automatically casting votes for someone," Martin wrote.

He said the election judges sent another voter to the machine that Lawson used right after her issue arose.

"I then had to make the supervisor aware that they were continuing to tell people to vote on this machine," he wrote. "At this point, they closed that one machine with no worries at all and just excusing (sic) the fact they were NEW machines."

Vos Caudill said her office will "reach out" to Lawson soon after the election and show her how the machines operate.

scondon@aspentimes.com