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December 09, 2004

Election Rules Blue Ribbons

I attended the first meeting of the Secretary of State's Blue Ribbon Panel on election reform. I left both optimistic and worried. Optimistic because even the more outspoken members like Sen. Ron Tupa, 25% of whose district is routinely disenfranchised by voting Republican, seemed to take the proceedings in a more dignified, serious manner than the members of the public who showed up. Worried that these proceedings could turn into a circus if not properly managed, and there were some signs of that this time.

The Secretary addressed two sets of issues directly: what to do about registration fraud, and what to do about the timelines. A number of people were shocked to find out that there are no criminal penalties for refusing to turn in a registration, for instance.

We also got to a see a show-and-tell about two items: voting centers, which Larimer County Clerk Scott Doyle instituted in 2003, and some very fancy electronic voting machines. Both look like sound ideas.

Voting centers are basically precinct-less voting. Judges either configure the machine, or hand out a paper ballot, reflecting the ballot style in a voter's home precinct. They do cost less. But the really nice thing is that with fewer places to vote, election judges can connect to the county's voting rolls electronically. So much for tooling around the county, getting a tour of the local churches and schools while you vote early and often.

We also saw touch-screen voting machines used in Nevada this year. They print out a paper trail that the voter can see, but not touch. (This prevents someone from voting, and then using their paper receipt to collect on the $5 promised for voting a certain way.) The papers are sealed, kept by the cleark, and used for either hand-recounts or statistical spot-checks. Cool stuff.

This didn't come up, but if you combine the two, and remember that by 2006 we'll have a statewide electronic voter list, you could have the whole state on such a system. That way, when an early snowstorm traps Denver voters in Durango, election judges there could configure the machines for any precinct in the state.

On the good side, the Secretary has done her homework. She's organized the various reforms. When one agitators for a local paper-based blog tried to make the case for same-day vote fraud registration, she replied, simple, "this panel is not considering same-day registration." The panel members themselves seem to reflect the need to balance access with security.

Another fellow asked about students voting, and the Secretary was less-than-sympathetic. Paraphrasing: "we've had problems with students voting here and in their home states. The legislature specifically ruled out using student IDs as a valid form of ID for registration purposes." Letters from the college administration, however, do work, but I guess the idea is to make it more trouble than it's worth to vote twice.

Naturally, some members of the public were more interested in complaining, mostly about electronic voting, than about solving the problem. And the erroneous Alan Gilbert was there, pushing his exit-poll strategy. Gilbert showed up about an hour late, and proceeded to talk more than anyone else in the room except for demonstrators. He had more to say about Ohio than Colorado. As long as the local papers insist on giving him a megaphone, the Secretary is going to waste valuable time dealing with him. On the other hand, who knows more about stealing elections than a Marxist?

Posted by joshuasharf at December 9, 2004 03:14 PM | TrackBack

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