Vail Valley Voices: Ballot secrecy issues corrected
Vail, CO, Colorado
Election processes in Eagle County, and in other Colorado counties, have been scrutinized and monitored over the years for integrity, accuracy and security through various testing boards, polling place judges, Canvass Boards and citizen watchers. We welcome this scrutiny and any positive change that results.
Recently, election activists have brought a lawsuit asserting that Colorado clerks are not concerned about voter confidentiality. They are attempting to require us to change some of our processes, including removing key barcodes on ballots.
We take these allegations very seriously. When these issues were brought to our attention, we analyzed our procedures and determined traceability issues did exist for this year’s primary.
This issue was limited to this year’s primary and will be resolved for all future elections, starting with the general election on Nov. 6. Please rest assured that the anonymity of your vote is secure.
The issue stems from the mandatory use of stub numbering on ballots. The county records the ballot stub number and the person to whom it was sent to ensure a person’s vote is counted correctly. These stub numbers are removed from returned ballots during the counting and tabulating process to maintain confidentiality.
The county also uses unique bar code numbers on the ballots themselves, which prohibits a single ballot from being scanned more than once, eliminates the potential for counterfeit ballots, and allows us to identify damaged ballots to make sure they get counted properly.
We feel that these ballot codes are an important safeguard to the process and their use has been approved following meticulous certification and approval by the secretary of state.
Election processes include shuffling of the ballots at our third-party printer prior to attaching the ballot stub to ensure sequential stub numbers do not coincide with sequential serial numbers.
I was assured for this year’s primary that this process was occurring. Unfortunately, our research shows that the shuffling did not happen in all precincts. This failure allows potential traceability of some voters using a complicated matrix and mathematical formula.
This issue should not concern the general public. We will not release voted ballots from this year’s primary in response to a records request without first redacting the serial numbers. Those that may have access to the ballots as a result of this pending lawsuit are precluded by law from identifying your vote.
In the coming general election and all that will follow, my staff will personally oversee and ensure that all protocols are followed by our printing vendor.
Discerning how an elector voted is something that is of absolutely no interest to me or my team. The Clerk and Recorder’s Office directs the meticulous processing of thousands of ballots from all possible spectrums of voter positions, parties and voter demographics. We are only concerned with ensuring accurate, secure and efficient processing and publication of each election’s results.
It is unfortunate that local activists chose a federal court room to raise these issues. If anyone has issues or concerns with the protocols or practices of the Clerk’s Office, they are encouraged to come speak with me directly.
I am your county clerk and proud to serve the people of this county. I can attest that during my tenure of nine years and 14 separate elections, my team and I have gone above and beyond what is required during all parts of the pre- and post-election processes.
I understand the enormous and important responsibility we have to the county’s electorate in correctly and confidentially recording their votes. I took an oath to uphold the Colorado and U.S. constitutions, which I take seriously every day I serve those who elected me.
Teak Simonton is the Eagle County clerk and recorder.
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