CO Chain-of-Custody: Rest assured, we would never see this in Connecticut

Colorado Springs Conservative Examiner: Secret count preceded Saguache election ‘retabulation’ <read>

What a great idea for election and chain-of-custody transparency:

Examination of election videotapes reveal that the Saguache County Clerk’s office and two judges conducted a secret vote count Nov. 4 from 2 p.m. to about 7:12 p.m. prior to the Nov. 5 “retabulation.”

The video recording copies were obtained through a Colorado Open Records Act request Nov. 16. The county clerk’s office is required by law to keep continuous recordings of all election areas and activities, beginning two months before the election, up to and including any recounts, for two years

They were caught ballot handed. Activist Marlyn Marks summarizes what happened and what is wrong. From the article:

“Reports of a significant private hand count on the afternoon of Nov. 4 appear to validate just how severely the election process and citizen oversight had degraded by Nov. 5, the date of the so-called ‘re-tabulation.’ Reports indicate that ballots were pulled from storage bins and hand-counted by three individuals without notification to candidates, special districts, press, canvass board, or poll watchers. Parties, candidates, special districts, and the press all have statutory rights to have authorized watchers present during every step of the election process. The fact that the count was done in secret and results never disclosed, nor interested parties informed are all serious breaches of trust by the clerk.

“The timing of this alleged hand count one day in advance of a scheduled machine “re-tabulation” raises even more questions as to the purpose of that private count, and the goals of the “re-tabulation.” Why was such a close-door count necessary? Furthermore, the initial machine tabulation and the “re-tabulation,” were not legitimate and not allowed by Colorado election law due to the security incidents prior to election day. The law prohibits the machine from being used to tabulate the election on Nov. 2 and required hand counts instead. That law was ignored by the clerk. We should remember that a Nov. 5 “re-tabulation,” does not legitimize using a faulty, prohibited machine on Nov. 2 or 5, when a hand count was required all along.

“In summary, the machine tabulation was illegitimate, the private count on Nov. 4 was illegitimate, and the “re-tabulation” Nov. 5 was illegitimate, all worsened by a lack of proper security. There is nothing on which to base reasonable conclusions as to the outcome of the close races in this election.”

The Colorado State Attorney General’s Office, Criminal Investigations Division is reviewing complaints made by a growing number of local residents and other Coloradans, including Marks, concerning the conduct of the election.

This was not a very independent recount:  Saguache County: A test case in Colorado election integrity <read>

When a county clerk in a poor, rural county in south-central Colorado reversed the results of the Nov. 2 election three days later and declared herself the winner, many of the residents there cried foul. Not only did Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers go from loser to winner during what many consider to be an improper retabulation, so did the incumbent county commissioner of the same party affiliation. A slew of bipartisan complaints to the secretary of state have fallen on deaf ears…

A trail of private e-mails and public documents shows that even though the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office acknowledges a number of problems with the election, the agency has failed to do much about it. Worse, the secretary of state’s lead officials may have even made untrue claims in their attempts to make the matter go away.

We would never see this sort of thing in Connecticut

Yesterday, we covered the flawed chain-of-custody and court actions in New Jersey. We pointed out how such problems would be unlikely to be surfaced in Connecticut.  Once again we can rest assured that the “Provisions State” has provided little provision in our statutes for discovering problems like those surfaced in Colorado:

  • We have no law or chain-of-custody requirement similar to the video requirement in Colorado.  We have no standards for the facilities where ballots are stored.  In most Connecticut municipalities it is easy for one official, to obtain and use a single key, to access ballots alone, undetected, for hours at a time. Ballots are stored in hallways, schools, closets, under desks, and abandoned classrooms. [If you think they are protected by seals, read yesterday’s post]
  • We are unaware of any Connecticut election law that prohibits machine counting due to “security incidents prior to election day”, but we would certainly expect better than this incident in Colorado – we would expect that any security incidents would be corrected or compensated for unless discovered at too late a date. Even in very close elections we count ballots a second time in recanvasses using the same type of machine and duplicate memory cards.

Update 3/15/2011: Denver Post: Secretary of state, clerks battle over Saguache ballots

Update 3/25/2011: Center Post Dispatch: Secretary of State sues clerk to review ballots

Update 4/6/2011: The ballot access debate continues, between the Secretary of the State and local officials:

The Chieftain: State official lacks review authority, Saguache clerk says <read>

Myers’ response, filed Thursday in Saguache County District Court, said the state constitution required her not to disclose how an elector voted and the proposed review of voted ballots may violate that duty.

The Denver Post: Saguache clerk tells court ballots should be kept secret, even from state <read>

The Colorado County Clerks Association says they shouldn’t. The association’s president, Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Scott Doyle, has said ballots are “sacred” and keeping them private is essential to democracy. Allowing the secretary of state to review Saguache County ballots would set a dangerous precedent, he has said.

A group of Saguache County residents and election integrity activists argue that because ballots are anonymous, inspecting them should not reveal how anyone voted. While voting should occur in private, voted ballots should be publicly interpreted and counted, they say.

They point to previous instances in which the secretary of state has inspected voted ballots and to notable examples in other states — namely the 2000 presidential election in Florida in which a group of newspapers reviewed every discounted ballot after the election was certified.

Update 8/11/2011: ES&S facing contempt charges <read>

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