Garfield County can’t count on voting machines

Phillip YatesGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Millions of dollars have been invested in new voting machines after the curse of the hanging chad. Millions more may have to be spent after the machines meant to avoid a repeat of the debacle have run into their own problems.All 64 Colorado county clerks, including Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico, may be re-evaluating the voting machines used in their counties after Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman announced on Monday that he was decertifying three electronic voting machines across the state based on accuracy and security problems. He required the companies to reapply for recertification. One of the machines that had its Colorado certification pulled was Hart InterCivic’s eScan, which Garfield County uses to read paper ballots in county elections, Alberico said. Coffman also pulled certification of the company’s Ballot Now system, which is balloting-printing equipment the county has purchased but has not used in an election. Voting machine vendors and clerks have 30 days to appeal the decertification, Alberico said.The company’s eSlate machines, used by Garfield County voters to make their selections, remain conditionally certified, Alberico said.”Right now, I am not quite sure what we are going to do,” Alberico said. “It is going to be difficult. I am just going to wait and see what comes out of this. Everyone knew something like this could happen. We have been contemplating what our contingencies might be.”Coffman has scheduled meetings with county representatives and voting equipment vendors for Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday morning, there will be a special session at the state Capitol building that all county clerks are invited to, Alberico said. “I am hopefully going to make that meeting,” Alberico said. “I am just waiting for more information and to see, bottom line, how (Coffman’s decision) affects us before we make any decisions.”But any move to remove Hart InterCivic’s voting machines is a decision Alberico said she would have to make with county commissioners.”Once we decide what is going to happen, we are going to have to sit down and talk and figure out what is going to be the best solution for Garfield County,” Alberico said.Coffman said Colorado’s actions would have national repercussions. “What we have found is that the federal certification process is inadequate,” he said.Coffman’s move to decertify Hart InterCivic’s eScan machine could cause a tremendous headache for local election workers next year. In last year’s election, about 65 percent of county voters cast paper absentee ballots, which are also called mail-in ballots, Alberico said. A sizable group of people at polling places last year also used paper ballots, Alberico said. The county used currently decertified Hart’s eScan machines to tabulate those ballots.”I have to have some kind of scanning equipment that will count those paper ballots,” Alberico said.Garfield County currently has an Elections Systems and Software M650 machine, which is a central ballot counting system, but that was also decertified by Coffman on Monday.”This is a pretty big story statewide,” Alberico said of the decertification of balloting machines. “It is too bad. The certification process was supposed to be done so much earlier in the year and now it is crunch time.”The Associated Press contributed to this report.Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117pyates@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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