Election report shows District 16 mill levy OK’d by 17 votes
Post Independent Staff
Human error, not machine error, resulted in incorrect vote counts in two of the Nov. 4, 2003, Garfield County elections, an election report states.
If the votes had been counted properly, Garfield School District 16 would have won its mill levy override and the Glenwood Springs City Council race between Rick Davis and Larry Beckwith would have ended in a tie.
Drew T. Durham, director of the Colorado Secretary of State’s Help America Vote Act program, released a report Monday analyzing the county’s election process, run by Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Mildred Alsdorf
“The human error in this election caused a series of events to occur as a result of a failing to follow state law and regulations, a lack of training and an over-reliance on an electromechanical voting system which could not compensate for an inadequately run election,” Durham’s report concluded.
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The 100-page report also states that Alsdorf’s hiring of her son and his wife, Mike and Lynn Alsdorf, as election judges, “may impact the trust of the public.”
“There is an appearance of impropriety where family members are key components of an election that is not carefully run,” Durham wrote. “Although nepotism is not presently prohibited in the employment of election officials, this office recommends that the General Assembly consider whether legislation is appropriate to prevent nepotism in this critical context.”
The Garfield School District No. 16 tax mill levy override question was defeated 631-625, according to the original vote count. But HAVA’s hand recount showed that the question should have passed by 17 votes ” 673-656.
As a result, school superintendent Steve McKee said the district will challenge the outcome.
In the other disputed race between Glenwood Springs City Council incumbent Rick Davis and challenger Larry Beckwith ” a race Beckwith won by three votes, 192-189 ” the hand recount showed that the election was actually a tie, 200-200.
Davis declined to comment Monday on Durham’s findings because he hadn’t yet read the report.
Garfield County attorney Don DeFord said in the result of a tie, it would be up to the Glenwood Springs code on what to do next.
Glenwood Springs city attorney Karl Hanlon could not be reached for comment Monday on what would happen in case of a tie.
According to state law, neither of the recounts will affect the election outcomes, so the November outcomes are binding.
Rather than changing the results of a past election, the HAVA program is designed to help improve how elections are run in the future.
Durham states that the main problems in election procedure for the Nov. 4, 2003, election were:
– Errors due to conflicting instructions in ballots.
Specifically, the report states that some of the instructions told voters to use pen, while others instructed voters to use pencil when casting votes.
“Alsdorf either did not notice it or she made the decision to leave it to the Central Count Tabulator to process ballots it was not set up to read,” Durham wrote of the vote-counting machine.
– Inadequate training and supervision of election staff.
“This office finds that insufficient training was provided by the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder prior to the November 2003 election,” Durham wrote. “Neither Alsdorf nor her staff used training available through the Secretary of State’s office.”
– Failure to follow procedures regarding clearance of election judges.
In addition to questioning whether family members should have been hired as election judges, the report states that Mike Alsdorf did not have the required Colorado Bureau of Investigation clearance.
“The failure to follow this procedure impacts voter trust in the election process,” Durham wrote.
– Incorrect segregation of mail ballots prior to count.
The report states that Alsdorf took all unsigned ballots to her office so she could inform voters they must sign the ballots for them to be counted.
“Alsdorf is commended for her efforts to ensure that voters complied with state law; however, the segregation or separation of ballots violated her own written ballot plan approved by this office and could have jeopardized the integrity of the election. All ballots should be maintained in a single place that is secure and locked,” Durham wrote.
– At least one elector was denied access to the ballots for that elector’s proper ward.
Jeffrey Fegan, a registered voter in Glenwood Springs Ward 1, received the incorrect ballot for his ward and was unable to acquire the correct ballot, Durham wrote.
“The lack of training on the Integrity Sequel software, generally poor training of election staff and lack of adequate supervision of the staff were the causes of his failing to receive the proper ballot,” the report states.
After receiving the report on Monday, Mildred Alsdorf said she and her staff did the best they could.
“We had procedural problems and training problems,” she said. “But we went with the best that could happen. I was not allowed by law to do a recount.”
Alsdorf also said she’s already signed up herself and two employees for training at the secretary of state’s office in Denver this summer.
“We’ll improve anything we can,” she said.
Garfield County School District No. 16 superintendent Steven McKee said he plans to challenge the election by way of the state Legislature or in court.
“Obviously we’re pleased with the results of the secretary of state’s investigation,” McKee said. “Our attorney is investigating the best action to take.”
Complaints by the school district and Davis led to the secretary of state’s investigation.
A news release sent by the school district on Monday states, “It is not the intent of the school district to point fingers or place blame, but according to the report … ‘Voters who cast ballots should not be punished by the errors of those who administer elections. Nor should candidates or stakeholders in any race, issue or question on the ballot be the objects of impunity due to these errors.'”
The school district’s news release ends by stating that because the tax actually should have won, “the Garfield County electorate who exercised their votes have a right to see that their voter intent is manifested.
“The school district, therefore, will pursue all avenues available to us, be it judicial or legislative, to ensure voter intent is implemented.”
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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