GUEST COMMENTARY
Policies That Ensure Integrity of the Vote
by Kathleen Erie
, San Miguel County Clerk
Sep 27, 2012 | 1194 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Recent articles in local papers raise questions about the conduct of elections in Colorado.  While San Miguel County was not named in the articles, the issues highlighted are ones that affect San Miguel County.

The first mention was the visit of Secretary of State Scott Gessler to the Town of Telluride.  One point in the article was that “ten counties in Colorado had over 100 percent voter registration compared with the census data.”  San  Miguel is one of those counties and what sounds like an alarming statistic is, for our transient community, highly misleading.  

The 2010 census counted 7359 residents. On August 14 we had 8336 electors.  The following chart shows the categories of those 8336 electors.  Below it are brief explanations of the categories.  It is most important to know that no registration for a Colorado elector is cancelled simply for failure to vote.  There must be some additional indication that the person is no longer a county resident, generally returned mail.



Active 3,784

Inactive – Failed to Vote   789

Likely voters  4,573



Inactive – All other categories1,767

Possible voters  6,340



Cancelled – Ineligible  1,955

Incomplete or Pending    41

Grand Total  8,336



Active Voters are those who voted in the 2010 General Election or with whom we have had some contact since, e.g., voting in the 2011 Coordinated or 2012 Primary election, new registration, address or name change, response to a mailing.  Inactive – Failed to Vote are those who did not vote in the 2010 General Election and whose mailings have not been returned, indicating they were received by the voter.  All other categories of Inactive would be allowed to vote with proper ID and proof of residence in San Miguel County.  Cancelled, Incomplete or Pending would not typically be permitted to vote (though in limited circumstances a provisional ballot might be appropriate).  We believe the correct comparison of the census figure of 7359 is with a Likely Voters count of 4573.

Why do we have such a large number of Cancelled and Inactive voters?  Many young people come here to work in our resort community for a season or two and then move on.  Older people may leave during large parts of the year, causing a (non-forwardable) mail ballot not to reach them.

In summary, we believe that we absolutely comply with the list maintenance requirements of the National Voter Registration Act, the Colorado Revised Statutes and the Colorado Secretary of State Rules.

The second article of concern is a Denver AP feed reporting “. . . Boulder, Chaffee and Eagle Counties have marked ballots in a way that allows them to be traced to voters.”  

The “marks” were ballot serial number barcodes for use with Hart election equipment, used by 44 of the 64 Colorado Counties, including San Miguel.   The barcodes are useful because the electronic counting machines can determine if a ballot is submitted twice or identify a ballot that was not read properly.  The serial number barcodes on the ballots and the numbers on ballot stubs are NOT the same and are printed in separate passes.  Ballots are supposed to be “shuffled” between passes but apparently this was not done, or done adequately, by the ballot printers for those counties.

Voted ballots and most election documents are considered public documents subject to the Colorado Open Records Act.  By spending lots of time comparing stubs (separated before ballots are counted) or envelopes to batches of voted ballots, a group called the Citizens Center was able to identify at least a few voters.

San Miguel County’s ballot printer properly shuffled the ballots between passes and we do not believe the correlation between stubs and voted ballots could be made here.  While we believe that, properly used, the serial number barcode provides a useful level of control, we will of course comply with the new rule.  There will be extra steps, however, and we must allow extra time for the processing of mail ballots ahead of the close of polls on Election Day.   But voters need to be prepared to allow a little more time on Election Day for us to process ballots from polling places.  

If you have moved recently, even within the county, it is best to double-check your registration information.  Do this at www.GoVoteColorado.com.   If you are not registered in the state, the last day to do so will be Oct. 9.  If you will be away on November 6, plan to get an absentee ballot or put yourself on the Permanent Mail-In Voter list.  More than one address can be accommodated by the system, but please be aware that ballots ARE NOT FORWARDABLE.  Lastly, while several states are changing the types of identification required at the polls, Colorado has not.  But to be sure you have the correct ID with you, there is a list on Acceptable Forms of ID on the www.GoVoteColorado.com website under Resources on the lower right.

As always, if you have questions about your registration or voting, we are here at 728-3954.

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