Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Election bills eliminate oversight

Colorado’s already distrusted election system will be made even more untrustworthy if Governor Owens signs SB198/206. The bills are a last minute, backroom deal between the Secretary of State and the bill sponsors.

The bills would limit independent election oversight and legalize unsound and deceptive election procedures. At risk are free and fair elections and open government.

Following is a one page description of two fundamental problems with the bill. A seven page report which identifies seventy-five specific problems is available by sending an e-mail request to AlKolwicz@qwest.net .


Election bills eliminate oversight

The primary purpose of Senate Bill 198/206 is to eliminate independent election oversight.

In past elections, watchdogs, the press, and political party representatives have uncovered and reported many election flaws. These flaws include illegal voter registration, lost ballots, miscounted votes, and illegal election procedures.

Rather than fixing the cause of the problems, election officials have decided to prevent overseers from detecting and reporting these problems. Traditionally, this is referred to as “kill the messenger”. Less kindly, it is referred to as “cover-up”.

The Colorado legislature, after intense pressure by election officials, has approved and submitted SB-198/206 to Governor Owens for approval. Unless the bill is vetoed, Colorado’s already distrusted election system will be made even more untrustworthy.

According to a detailed report published by the non-partisan election watchdog group CAMBER – Citizens for Accurate Mail Ballot Election Results:

1. SB-198/206 strips the public and political parties of their right to oversee elections. The bill will:

  • Exempt critical election records from Colorado open records laws. These records do not contain voter confidential information and can be used to detect fraud and error.

  • Strip political parties of their current powers to appoint representatives to official election duties. Instead, election officials would decide who gets to participate in these critical oversight roles.

  • Eliminate current laws that require independent testing of voting equipment by political party representatives. Instead, only election officials create the tests. Officials can create tests that they know will work by testing them in private. They then run the “tests” in front of the public.

    This bill exempts election officials from public oversight. It is a step in the wrong direction. There will be no way left to detect fraud, error and incompetence. There will be no way left to hold election officials accountable for the security, accuracy and verifiability of elections.

2. SB-198/206 sets technical requirements that will not work – they ignore basic science.

  • Voters will be told that they are verifying their votes when they verify a “receipt”, but in fact they are not. Instead, votes recorded on invisible, unverified electronic ballots will be used to decide (almost) every future contest. The votes on receipts will (almost) never be counted.

  • The public will be told that equipment has been tested and results have been checked or recounted. Instead, the bill legalizes sampling techniques that rely on naive, statistically inadequate confidence levels.

    Elementary, widely accepted testing principles are legally forbidden by this bill. The result of implementing this bill will be less voter confidence, more defects, and more undetected fraud.

History has shown that when elections are not open to public scrutiny they are not trusted. SB-198/206 freezes the public out of the election process and opens the doors to election fraud, error and abuse and to widespread citizen distrust of election results.

A copy of the CAMBER report is available. Seventy-five problems with the bill are identified.

It is time to veto SB-198/206 and start over.

* * * END * * *

CAMBER is a dedicated group of volunteers who are working to ensure that every voter gets to vote once, every vote is counted once, and that every ballot is secure and anonymous. Contact Al Kolwicz at 303-494-1540 or AlKolwicz@qwest.net