Ritter, lawmakers want a paper election in 2008 | PostIndependent.com

Ritter, lawmakers want a paper election in 2008

Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Gov. Bill Ritter and state legislative leaders want voters to be able to cast paper ballots in person in this year’s elections after most of the state’s electronic voting equipment was decertified.

Under a plan announced Wednesday, voters in the primary as well as the November presidential election would be able to cast their ballots in polling places on Election Day or vote through early voting and by mail.

That’s the opposite of what a majority of county election officials had asked for, citing problems with the machines and concerns about a computerized voter registration database.

But House Majority Leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder, said a traditional election at polling places was the best way to ensure that everyone who wants to vote is able to do so.

“My kids tell me that retro is in. … Sometimes just because something is old-fashioned doesn’t mean it’s wrong,” Madden said.

County clerks had asked for an election conducted mostly by mail.

Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico said she would have preferred a mandatory mail ballot.

“I feel that we would have had more control and that it would be less problematic to issue those ballots,” Alberico said. “It would be the least expensive way for people to (vote). But I understand their reasoning for wanting to have paper ballots at the polls. However the legislature directs us to conduct this election is how we are going to do it.”

Under either plan, counties would still have to make at least one electronic voting terminal available at every polling place or ballot drop-off location for handicapped voters and anyone else who wants to use it on Election Day.

Ritter said trying to create a statewide mail-in system in a presidential election year would be like “building an airplane in the air.”

The database that clerks are concerned about has been tested in only nine of Colorado’s 64 counties, in smaller elections.

The solution to that problem is also old-fashioned. Ritter said lists of all the voters who are eligible to vote in a certain precinct will be printed out for the November election so poll workers won’t have to go online to retrieve records on Election Day.

Secretary of State Mike Coffman, who didn’t attend the announcement, said he supported the clerks’ call for a mail election. With a record turnout expected, he told lawmakers earlier in the day that polling places have “more points of failure” than a mail election.

In a written statement after Ritter’s announcement, Coffman said the decision rests with the governor and legislature.

“Whatever the system, whether it’s a mail ballot election or paper ballots at the polls, I will work with the county clerks to make sure we are prepared for it and that it’s the best election it can possibly be,” Coffman said.

In a letter sent to lawmakers Wednesday, groups including Colorado Common Cause, the Latina Initiative and People for the American Way urged lawmakers to allow voters to vote in person if they want to.

The groups said people who have moved frequently, don’t have a permanent address and haven’t voted by mail before could be left out of a mail election.

“This burden will fall hardest on minority, low-income and young voters,” they wrote.

Jenny Flanagan, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, said a mail-in election may be easier for the clerks to run, but she said any system will have problems.

Flanagan said clerks will have a difficult time finding polling places to handle the expected turnout in voters. She suggested schools could close on Election Day to make it easier for them to serve as polling places, and more people could be urged to serve as poll workers.

Lawmakers expect to introduce a bill in the next several days that lays out the plan they announced Wednesday.

The Post Independent contributed to this report.

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