Garfield among Colorado counties testing new voting machines next month
DENVER — Amid national anxiety about aging voting machines, Colorado elections officials are testing four types of new machines in elections next month as they move toward upgrades statewide.
The Secretary of State plans to certify one new voting machine next year, putting the state on track to move away from a patchwork of voting machines to a single system.
“Much of our equipment in Colorado is old,” Wayne Williams said Monday. “A lot of our systems are so old that they’re based on Microsoft systems that Microsoft no longer supports.”
Next month’s off-year election is being used a test run for four different types of machines. Each will be used in a large Front Range county and a smaller rural county. The test counties are Adams, Denver, Douglas, Garfield, Gilpin, Jefferson, Mesa and Teller.
The upgrades to newer machines will cost about $10 million to $15 million, with counties picking up the tab. A voting machine will be chosen by 2016, with counties free to upgrade whenever they’re ready.
The upgrades come as elections administrators nationwide sound alarms about aging voting machines. Unlike old-school mechanical vote-counters, the wave of electronic voting machines adopted after the contested 2000 presidential election weren’t built to last decades.
Nearly every state in the nation will be using machines next year that are at or near the end of their projected lifespans, according to a September report by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. “Old voting equipment increases the risk of failures and crashes … and problems only get worse the longer we wait,” the authors wrote.
Williams says Colorado is ahead of the problem by starting now to phase out old machines. But he couldn’t give an estimate for when the new machines would be in every county.
“We’re looking at a phased-in approach, so that if a county has a system in place that is working for them, they won’t have to replace them,” Williams said.
Some critics of Colorado’s voting-machine elections said they’re disappointed the upgrades don’t include additional security. The Colorado Voter Group, which advocates for enhanced ballot security, said it believes the current system is susceptible to fraud and that the new machines could be, too.
Ninety-five percent of Colorado voters now cast ballots by mail, something the Colorado Voter Group considers suspect.
“Ballots can be lost, stolen, modified,” member Al Kolwicz said. “The issue of convenience has overtaken the essential requirement of vote security.”
Williams said there’s no reason for concern, even in the counties experimenting with new machines next month.
“All of the systems have been sufficiently tested that we know they are accurate,” Williams said.
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