Sunday, August 21, 2005

REBUTTAL to Paul Tiger's Opinion by Al Kolwicz

An incredibly poor comprehension of Boulder County’s 2004 election problems is revealed in Paul Tiger’s Opinion, “Less emotion, more science”, Colorado Daily, August 14th. Below, each of Mr. Tiger’s major errors is refuted, paragraph by paragraph.

1. Tiger appears to believe that the public policy issue is focused on “control of the [elections] division.” This is not true. Voter activists are demanding a restoration of public trust in elections -- see August 2nd posting by Joe Pezzillo at “Citizens ask Boulder County Commissioners to act to restore public trust".

Colorado law defines election administration to be a joint authority. The law defines roles for independent oversight and for political party and contestant involvement. It is not true, as asserted by Tiger, that “only the clerk can and should have oversight and control”.

2. The root cause of the widespread 2004 election failures was the lack of competent planning and execution. This fundamental failure is what caused “the parts of the process that failed”.

Salas fails to acknowledge the problems and consequently fails to address them, preferring instead to cover up the problems by blaming others.

An elected official need not be a subject-matter expert, but does need to set standards of acceptable performance. Salas does not.

3. The statement that "only the clerk and her staff can control the methods" is contrary to the law, the rules, and good sense. The law defines political party and Secretary of State responsibilities.

Salas works hard to prevent independent oversight. Only by maximizing transparency, while protecting security, accuracy and verifiability, can the clerk earn voter confidence.

4. Her continued denial of the facts and refusal to directly engage the public is proof that Salas has failed to learn from her failures. Further, Salas has launched the 2005 election using her same false assumptions.

Salas continues to cling to her dangerously euphoric and erroneous beliefs, despite facts to the contrary. In addition to many other denials of fact, Salas refuses to acknowledge that:

  • The 2004 election was not accurate – the clerk’s own recount, and the defects discovered during the canvass of results, proved this.
  • Permanently serialized ballots violate the Colorado Constitution – Article VII section 8 requires secret ballots.
  • Mail ballot elections do not increase voter turnout – data from past elections prove this.
  • Mail ballot elections are not secure, accurate, verifiable – published CAMBER studies prove this, see .
  • Control of elections is a shared authority -- Colorado statutes clearly state this.
5. Contrary to Tiger’s assertion, critics who worked on the election did not become supporters of the HART system. As an actively involved election official, I definitely did NOT become a supporter of the failed HART system! I don’t know anybody who analyzed the system that now supports it.

Tiger’s use of the pejorative "doom purveyor" is an attempt to “kill the messenger.” It is an attempt to discredit those who dedicate time and effort to reform the flawed election process. It is a debating trick intended to avoid dealing with the issues.

It is totally untrue that critics spent no time working with the systems. Collectively, hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars were invested by people like Kolwicz, Thigpen, Eckert, McBurnett, Shnelvar, Horton, Schooler, and many others.

Tiger implies that a comprehensive agreed-to set of elections procedures existed. They most definitely did not.

It is absolutely untrue that the critics were “citizens choosing to stand outside”. In fact, Salas and her gang abused their office by using their special positions to steadfastly prevent citizens from getting inside. She directly refused to permit legally prescribed public participation in the election process and threatened and attempted to discredit and silence those who did. She even used sheriff’s deputies to intimidate and prevent at least one legally appointed election official (me) from performing his duty.

6. Salas’ hand-picked Election Review Committee is not independent and made no attempt to perform comprehensive election oversight. The ERC results are tragically incomplete, and grossly inaccurate. Further, the ERC makes numerous statements “of fact” that are totally unsupported and most likely untrue.

The ERC should have addressed quantities – how many, exactly when, how fast, etc. But, such numbers were not published in their report, and apparently not even examined.

Tiger attempts to make it appear OK that the system failed, using as a rationale “the complexity of the issues.” In fact, if the job is too complex for her, Salas should demonstrate good character by stepping aside and letting a more qualified person represent the interests of the people. As long as Salas retains control, the unresolved problems of 2004 will never be resolved.

7. Tiger attacks “uneducated and ill-informed suggestions“ made by people who “refused to be involved in the operations of elections”. This inflammatory attack calls for specific names and specific allegations.

Well in advance of the 2004 elections, Salas was presented numerous written lists of problems and recommended solutions – one of these, “Requirements for Trustworthy Elections – 2004 Primary and General,” was published April 10, 2004 at

Salas has not dealt with any of the fundamental issues. Instead, the Clerks of Colorado ganged up with the Secretary of State to block future independent oversight. Perhaps their theory is that if nobody can detect and report the problems, then the problems will be gone. In fact, the 2005 elections will be exposed to the same unresolved problems.

8. Despite Tiger’s assertion to the contrary, it was never true that the activists were overjoyed at the purchase of the HART system. In fact, the opposite is true – activists were distraught at the purchase of the HART system. Activists were pleased at the commissioner’s recommendations to use paper ballots and reject DRE voting equipment. Tiger should identify the so-called “activists” who were “overjoyed” by the purchase.

It is not true that activists were quiet from December 11, 2003 to April 27, 2004. Among many others there was the Orange County issue. It involved a clandestine, useless field trip by election officials with no written report, followed by an attempted cover-up of HART system malfunctions that happened during the Orange County election.

Both leasing and hand counting were prophetic recommendations by the activists. If the HART system were to have been leased in 2003, it would likely not have been purchased after the 2004 election problems were discovered. If votes on the paper ballots were hand counted, the 2004 election might have been successful.

9. Hand counted paper ballots are a part of Colorado law and were recommended by some members of the public. See November, 2003, . The Swiss Method suggestion was advanced later.

Contrary to Salas' assertions, it was then and is now permissible to verify vote counts. In 2003, for example, Salas conducted a so-called “administrative recount”. This same authority could have been used to attempt to satisfy the public’s demand for verification of vote counts.

The so-called hand audits included in the recently revised statutes are not based on scientific methods, and will likely fail to achieve the hoped for increase in voter confidence.

10. It is our understanding that the HART system cannot be revised and certified in time for the 2005 election; therefore the HART system should not be used for the 2005 election.

To our knowledge, it is not true that comprehensive election procedures exist. Where are these procedures? What public reviews have they sustained? What technical reviews have determined that the procedures are secure, accurate, verifiable and transparent?

Boulder County was wrong to spend more than a million dollars on a dysfunctional, partially complete system that requires R&D funding and excessive operational resources to make it meet minimum requirements.

Boulder County is failing in its obligation to protect the taxpayer’s money. It is wasting this money in order to cover up government’s failings. The County should immediately demand a full refund plus high penalty fees from HART.

Salas and crew have demonstrated that they lack the skills needed to recognize and define the problems. They most certainly lack the skills needed to solve them. In my opinion, they do not even have the skills needed to identify, select and supervise professional help.

11. Before Mr. Tiger again reveals his poor comprehension of events, he should practice his own call for “Less emotion, more science”.

Al Kolwicz

Citizens for Accurate Mail Ballot Election Results
2867 Tincup Circle
Boulder, CO 80305