Election irregularities plague Pueblo recall voting

Election irregularities plague Pueblo recall voting

An unusual level of scrutiny reveals sloppy processes

As voting proceeds in the recall elections of state senators Morse and Giron, irregularities in the voting process in Pueblo are coming to light. While litigation before the voting began clarified new rules of procedure, some rules are simply not being followed. Some of these irregularities could cause challenges later.

The voting was supposed to begin on Thursday, September 5th. It did in El Paso County, but in Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder “Bo” Ortiz decided to start early, on Friday August 30. Neither the Secretary of State’s office nor any political party challenged it.

The law requires a public demonstration to verify the accuracy of election equipment prior to its use in the election. In El Paso County, public notice was given on August 29 for a September 3 test. The test was open to the media, the public and political parties. Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams ran a test ballot through the scanner in front of everyone present, then had the ballots printed en masse.

In Pueblo County, the Chair of the Pueblo County Republican Party received a text message on August 29 that the test was being held on that day with no prior public notice. Rigorous testing did not occur. As a result, paper ballots were printed on paper too small for the scanners. Ballots skewed as they were being read and were rejected by the machines.

Instead of folding the ballots and placing them in a locked ballot box, election judges took the ballots from voters, looked them over carefully and tried to run them through the scanners themselves. In some cases, the judges were able to examine how the ballots were marked before putting them in the scanners.

Goodbye secret ballot.

For many, the secret ballot is sacred in American culture. Secrecy insures that the voter is voting his or her conscience, unaffected by others’ influence. At least some Democrats think differently.

On Friday September 5 in Colorado Springs, Colorado College Democrats held a rally and barbecue for Sen. Morse. Along with Morse, the rally featured U.S. Representative Diane DeGette, an alumnus of the college. The idea, according to the invitation, was to have a little food, listen to a couple of speeches, mark your absentee ballots and walk them over to the voter service center.

No real question about who you’d vote for. Later, several of these rich friends of the proletariat were seen dropping off ten ballots each at Centennial Hall downtown.

Colorado College is within Sen. Morse’s district. The school is a well-regarded private upper class liberal arts school. They don’t issue statistics about in-state versus out-of-state students. As a result, it is impossible to prove whether these students were Colorado residents or if so, were residents of Senate District 11.

None of that even matters under Sen. Giron’s new election law. Simply saying you intend to live in the district is good enough—or, as in one observed case in Pueblo, saying that you had lived in the district in the past. A man who had moved out of the district was at first not allowed to vote but after making a scene election workers did allow him to vote.

The new law is so lax with respect to residence that Jon Caldera of the Independence Institute in Denver announced that he was going to vote—legally—in the Morse recall.

Also in Pueblo, poll watchers reported touch screen machines failing—and thereby losing votes cast. Irregularities with touch screen machines in Pueblo are not new: in the November 2012 election, voters reported touching the screen for “Romney” and the result showing they had voted for “Obama.” No follow-up investigation was ever held.

No problems with either touch screens or paper ballots have been reported in El Paso County, according to Clerk and Recorder Office spokesman Ryan Parsell.

The Republican Party has been reluctant to challenge cases of election integrity. Chairman Ryan Call reportedly said that he didn’t want to undermine the public’s faith in the elections process.

If irregularities or outright fraud are occurring, the public do need to be concerned. Fraud disenfranchises every voter regardless of affiliation.