3:45pm-5pm – Parallel Sessions – Choose from these options to build and sharpen your advocacy toolkit. Come to learn, and share your insights.
Option 1. Statewide Risk Limiting Audits – Rules for Colorado
A group of auditing experts is working with Colorado state and county election officials to specify implementation rules for the first regular state-wide risk-limiting audits, using ballot-level comparisons in many counties. Join us to hear about this project and dig into issues including how to audit multi-county contests, auditing most if not all contests to some degree, targeting ballots based on mark density data, auditing signature verification and chain of custody, how to report audit results, and even Bayesian audits.
Led by John McCarthy, Neal McBurnett, Harvie Branscomb
With: Dwight Shellman, Colorado Secretary of State’s office; Gary VanDeStouwe, Jefferson County; Gail Maxell, Gilpin County; Philip Stark; Mark Lindeman,
To: The Secretary of State of Colorado, Wayne Williams
I'm expecting to see you tomorrow in Glendale at 9:30 at the http://freeandequal.org Election Reform (and alternate voting method) Symposium.
Because of that I am providing here an outline of my impressions of the CO voting system and the CO model as it performed in this election.
Most of this I have already made SOS staff aware of. I am not sure if my contribution and perspectives are appreciated. I suspect that some of these issues ought to be presented as complaints through public channels such as CDOS offers. I am having trouble getting answers to questions that have been properly asked through the correct channels. If I don't get answers I see little choice but to make a written complaint in some cases. Your advice would be welcome.
I also expect 107 and 108 to come up as topics tomorrow. I presented to your election committee a proposal for legislative solutions to the mistakes made by these initiatives. Clearly the legislature should propose one primary election with a presidential contest. As for unaffiliateds, it seems obvious that a ballot should be created for U and otherwise non-primary-eligible voters that contains candidates for both parties and unaffiliated candidates. Why force the U voter to select a party when they could be given a chance to vote on all candidates R, D,G,L and U etc. in each contest separately? Under approval voting we can free these voters from voting from only one party and avoid marking errors and disenfranchisement. Separately reported results from such a U primary would be most informative to the parties' assembly and convention process and even could be optionally folded in, resulting in an open primary. I'll be promoting this idea tomorrow.
Below I show what I am aware of as flaws in the General Election 2016. Of course there may well be others. Only by physically visiting election officials does a member of the public become aware of the real flaws. (There are rare exceptions that appear in mainstream media.)
I don't mean to express that the election was predominantly flawed. In fact, my impression is quite the opposite. Colorado's election system and methods of tabulation, particularly, have in many ways improved dramatically in the past 10 years. In visiting 30 counties I encountered many officials working under difficult conditions and apparently doing a great job with complex and incomprehensible law (particularly the conflation of mail-ballot-for-all with in-person same-day registration). Officials also deal with difficult and changing rules, and of course voters expecting meaningful representation and campaigns expecting to win.
In almost every county I found some meritorious election innovation that deserves sharing. I saw the beginning steps of solutions that would benefit the whole state. I am working on a detailed description of the vigorous and beneficial non-uniformity of the Colorado election as seen in about 30 counties. I will be turning that into some suggestions for legislative and rule-making remedies for some of the flaws that I report here.
Among many rarely heard of innovations are - signature verification at the VSPC (in the presence of the voter), use of stickers instead of stubs, envelopes with zero voter identity information on one side.
But here are what I see as flaws:
Notable flaws with the 2016 Colorado elections known to H. Branscomb who visited 30/64 counties.
(flaws are non-indented and comments and remedies are shown indented)
Statewide SCORE outage – two instances on election day about 30 minutes each
Here is a video that was posted on FaceBook and has been seen on FB at least 6,563,489 times. It shows how easy it was to change results on a formerly Diebold precinct optical scanner of a type still used in Colorado. It features famed Leon County Florida Election Supervisor Ion Sancho and also Harri Hursti, a well known election technologist.
Below are some of the comments on a recent posting of the video, starting with those by the Colorado Secretary of State and followed by my own.
Wayne WilliamsThis video does not reflect Colorado requirements. Memory cards are secured. In addition, 95% of Coloradans vote by mail, so there is obviously a paper ballot record. The new in person voting systems that I approved and that have been adopted in 18 counties have a paper ballot for in person voters as well. Even the older machines have to have a paper record to be legal in Colorado. Plus, we compare the machines to hand counts both before and after the election. So while I can’t say this can’t happen anywhere, it can’t happen in Colorado.
Harvie BranscombIn the video is well respected Leon County Florida Election Supervisor Ion Sancho and election quality activist Harri Hursti. The voting device shown is still used in Colorado especially in municipal elections. Broomfield and Pitkin Counties stopped using it only this year. The statutory post election audit that we use in Colorado has defects and can easily miss errors in tabulation that would alter an outcome. We are slated to move to a much more effective risk limiting audit in 2017 but surprisingly little preparation has been made for the transition. Our Colorado recount law (because of a poorly chosen denominator for the trigger threshold) is at least half as sensitive as that of many states and during a recount the same machines are used that can replicate tabulation errors that occurred in the first count.
Harvie BranscombTo make our statutory post election audit effective more than 500 ballots ought to be audited in large counties and the number should depend on the unofficial margin for each contest- more ballots selected for audit in case of a narrower victory margin. The way ballots are chosen for audit currently is rarely actually random and this lack of randomness will harm the value of the audit. And finally many counties do not audit by comparing a hand count to election night results, although this year a new rule will cause more counties that can to do so. When you look at the details of these integrity defending practices you find many places where improvements are needed.
Harvie BranscombOur new voting systems in 18 counties do provide machine printed paper copies that the voter can handle during in person voting but these copies encode the voter intent in what amounts to an electronic ballot printed into a QR code. That QR code isn’t voter verifiable. Not all counties allow voters to mark a paper ballot in person and cast it in the polling place without sending the ballot into the mail ballot signature verification process that can lead to the ballot not being counted until a letter from the clerk is responded to. The Colorado model can definitely be improved upon.