Eagle Co. may vote in person, on paper | VailDaily.com

Eagle Co. may vote in person, on paper

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” State legislators want voters to cast ballots in person in this year’s elections, but the Eagle County clerk and recorder, as well as county clerks across the state, said they are “alarmed” by the idea.

A paper ballot election could make the Colorado elections the “next national election disgrace,” said Nancy Amick, president of the Colorado County Clerks Association.

Because of a new statewide voter registration system and the recent “decertification” of some electronic voting equipment that was deemed unreliable and inaccurate, the Colorado County Clerks Association voted last week to recommend using mail-in ballots for the 2008 elections.

About 55 percent of Eagle County voters vote through mail-in ballots anyway, so it would not be difficult to do it on a larger scale, Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton said.

However, Gov. Bill Ritter and other state legislators are recommending Coloradans vote in person and on paper ballots. That means Coloradans would vote the “old-fashioned” way: go to their precinct, vote on paper and have their ballots fed through machines find out the results.

Simonton said that using paper ballots will make the entire process slower.

Also, the scanning machines used to read paper ballots are outdated and unreliable.

The last time the Eagle County tested them, the error rate was high and one machine did not work, she said.

With electronic machines used by most counties, voters can enter their vote, review their ballot, and the results are kept on a memory card as well as printed out. None of Eagle County’s electronic machines were “decertified.”

The tests in which the electronic machines were decertified involved running ballots through the machines smeared with ketchup and lipstick, Simonton said.

“No wonder the machine couldn’t read them,” she said.

If the state legislators vote for a paper ballot, Eagle County can manage, Simonton said.

“It’s just frustrating that they’re telling us not to use machines that we own and that work,” she said. “It will compromise customer service at the polls.”

However, not all counties have the equipment and some would have to buy the $6,000 machines for their polling places.

Some voting activists believe that because of past presidential election problems in Ohio and Florida and other equipment programming glitches, that electronic machines are inherently unreliable and open the door for tampering.

But Simonton said that makes no sense for electronic machines that have been tested and have worked. Eagle County’s security measures are extensive and the counting is closely monitored, she said.

She is also concerned about the new registration system, which has all Colorado voters signing onto a single database instead of on a county-by-county basis, Simonton said.

“It’s not fully developed, and at one of the pilot counties it was used at, it crashed,” she said. “I’m nervous about using it at the 2008 elections.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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