Eagle County Clerk’s election crew was perfect again, a statewide audit found | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Clerk’s election crew was perfect again, a statewide audit found

Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Regina O'Brien lets fly a fist pump after her election crew earned a perfect score for the third straight year in a risk limiting audit. The audit run by Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, measures the accuracy of local elections.
Randy Wyrick|randy@vaildaily.com

EAGLE — State officials audited Eagle County’s election ballots and for the third straight year the local results were perfect.

“It’s important that Colorado voters have confidence that how they voted on Election Day is exactly what was reported and recorded,” Eagle County Clerk & Recorder Regina O’Brien said.

Yet another reason to be happy you’re not voting in Florida or Chicago.

Why they do it

O’Brien, Election Manager Stacey Jones and their staff mailed more than 30,000 ballots on Oct. 15. Eagle County voters returned 22,724.

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Because this year’s Eagle County ballot was two pages, the Clerk & Recorder’s crew handled 45,448 sheets of paper.

“People often ask if we take some vacation when the election is over,” O’Brien said. “No, we do not. We still had work to do,” Jones said.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams was the first in the country to run a Risk Limiting Audit, checking county-by-county results across Colorado, saying it would “provide a level of assurance” to voters. Friday’s audit of the 2018 midterms was Williams’ third.

Other states are watching and will soon follow Williams’ lead.

“It is a big deal. The people need to know that the results are accurate. They need to have confidence so that they have respect for the government that is elected,” Williams said.

It also instills a sense of civic engagement so people believe there is a reason to vote, because their votes are counted accurately, and the outcome of the election is correct, Williams said.

How it works

Around noon Friday, Williams let them know what bins, batches and ballots were to be checked. That means every paper ballot had to exactly match what Eagle County’s election crew reported to the Secretary of State’s office after this year’s election season finally closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday Nov. 6.

The Secretary of State’s staff rolled a 20-sided dice to randomly select what ballots would be checked.

“Everything is handled in bi-artisan teams,” O’Brien said.

In Eagle County, Max Schmidt is the Republican rep. Deborah Earl is the Democrat rep.

In Eagle County, a bi-partisan panel pulled those randomly selected bins, batches (batches are stacks of ballots packed in sealed plastic bags) and ballots to make sure they matched exactly what was scanned and reported to the Secretary of State’s office.

Eagle County’s did. Every single one — zero discrepancies, zero disagreements.

For three straight years.

In other words, the Eagle County election crew gets gold stars on all its homework.

Williams’ staff met to choose which races to audit, ranging from county clerk contests, mayoral elections and the first statewide race in Colorado to go through the process: the bid for attorney general between Republican George Brauchler and Democratic winner Phil Weiser.

The only Eagle County race audited was for District 3 county commissioner between incumbent winner Democrat Jeanne McQueeney and Republican challenger Jacqueline Cartier.

The number of ballots pulled depends upon the number of ballots cast and the margin, Williams said. A random seed, which is a number consisting of at least 20 digits, was created by sequential rolls of 20 individual 10-sided dice.

That number determines which specific ballots were pulled in each race to compare with the election results.

To ensure randomness, Williams asks randomly selected members of the public to roll the dice.

All participating Colorado counties had to finish their Risk Limiting Audit by quitting time Monday.

Because the wonders of modern technology connect every Colorado Clerk and Recorder’s office to every other one in a statewide network. Eagle County may have to do another RLA — if enough other offices found mistakes their elections.

To see the comparison audit data and reports, check out the Audit Center online.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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