Sunday, October 31, 2004

Is Boulder County violating election laws?

Boulder County’s new vote counting system consists of 8 systems used to scan ballots, interpret the voter’s intent, and export the votes to portable media. One additional system is used to import the votes from the portable media and calculate the election results.

Each of the 9 systems can be easily modified by keyboard input or by loading data into the computer. Data include computer programs, files that define the election to the system, and files for storing scanned images of each ballot and the votes that were interpreted from each ballot. The smallest change in any of these elements can result in undesirable side effects.

By law, before and after a system is used for processing live ballots, the system must be tested. Colorado statute C.R.S. 1-7-506 says, “The designated election official shall have the electronic vote-counting equipment tested at each counting center in the manner prescribed in this section to ascertain that it will accurately count the votes cast for all offices and ballot issues. The electronic equipment shall be tested at least three times, once on the day before the election, again just prior to the start of the count on election day, and finally at the conclusion of the counting.”

Also, whenever maintenance is performed on a system, the system must be tested. Colorado statute C.R.S. 1-7-506.5 says, “The tests shall be sufficient to determine that the system is properly programmed, the election is correctly defined on the system, and all of the input, output, and communication devices are working properly.”

Boulder County is violating both of these laws. They have not performed the tests required by C.R.S. 1-7-506, and they have not performed the tests required by C.R.S. 1-7-506.5.

A set of test ballots was prepared by the political parties. The vote counting system failed to correctly count the test votes.

After days of secret discussions, Boulder County Clerk Linda Salas made an unbelievable decision. She decided to make changes to the systems and, without testing the modified systems, she began processing early and absentee ballots. After processing thousands of ballots, she decided to perform maintenance on the systems and, again without testing, resumed processing the real ballots. Not one of the required tests was performed.

Salas turned down requests by the Republicans to test the systems being used to process the real ballots. Republicans are not satisfied running tests on systems other than the ones actually doing the processing of the real ballots.

Republican Party representative Al Kolwicz is horrified saying, “Ms. Salas is being irresponsibly reckless with our votes. She is breaking the law. Anybody with a tiny bit of common sense would test these systems before using them to process real ballots.”

An election complaint has been filed with the Secretary of State.