This is a corrected version. I have commented in red on the America Votes message about SB-138 and Amendment L_011, included here in black.
Please do support Senator Lundberg's amendment, knowing that it deserves one or two amendments for clarification that will be presented including Senator Lundberg's own L_013. No doubt the House will make any necessary corrections. Without Senator Lundberg's L_011 amendment, please do not send the SB-138 to the House. It is not a crucial bill in any respect.
To read my comment, download the pdf (5 pages).
Q. Why are watchers needed when election judges appointed by both major parties are working in teams?
- Without watchers, minor parties, issue committees and unaffiliated candidates have no representation in election processing while their partisan opponents (D’s and R’s) make the decisions and process the election. All interested parties must have representation to lodge challenges when discrepancies are noted. When all interested parties have representatives observing a transparent election process, fairness and voter confidence are assured.
- Many functions are not conducted by teams, but by one partisan judge or staff member, with no other oversight.
- Election judges are typically assigned narrow tasks and are unable to assess the full process or challenge improper procedures. Watchers can focus on high risk or trouble spots.
- Few election judges are involved in oversight of computer-based systems and machines, now more vulnerable than ever to manipulation from bad actors or technical failures.
- Watchers are unpaid volunteers and are not concerned about negative employment consequences of identifying errors or challenging improper decisions or controls.
Q. Do watchers slow down and interfere with the process of the election?
- Providing all interested parties with oversight and challenge opportunities is an integral part of the fair process itself. Checks and balances and transparency measures are crucial elements and must not be considered hindrances to the speed of election processing. In general, watchers are careful not to create delays or bottlenecks in the process.
- The Lundberg amendment will permit even more efficiency by permitting watchers to view key documents “off line” with minimal interaction with judges in some areas.
- The Lundberg amendment also permits the Secretary of State to reduce the number of watchers by lot if an unusual situation creates more watchers than can be accommodated.
Q. Why are watchers needed when post-election audits are required in Colorado?
- Post-election audits are limited in scope and only focus on the accuracy of the tabulation. Post-election audits do not test voter eligibility, signature verification, ballot security, assurance that all eligible ballots were counted, accurate ballot issuance, voter suppression, etc. These are examples of processes and documentation that watchers can review prior to the audit and certification.
Q. Have there been significant problems with watchers creating problems?
- Not to our knowledge. None were reported in committee testimony. Tensions between watchers and officials tend to occur when watchers detect discrepancies, errors in the process, or poorly operating equipment. Such tension is natural and is best alleviated by providing more transparency, not less. Sound public policy requires transparency that will not permit problems to be concealed.
Q. What do other states’ laws permit for election observation?
- All 50 states permit watchers, also called “observers,” to oversee virtually all aspects of the elections. Some states permit any member of the public to observe the processing and ballot counting. Others permit both partisan advocates as well as non-partisan independent observers to watch and review the process. Others, like Colorado, limit the observation to “interested parties,” having a candidate or issue on the ballot, with no independent non-partisan observation permitted. Colorado’s policies tend to be less transparent and more “restrictive,” when policies are compared with other states.
Q. Shouldn’t election officials be permitted to select or veto watchers?
- No. Independence from election officials is fundamental to the check-and-balance process that watchers are intended to provide. Watchers’ duties run to their appointing party or campaign, not to the government. The appointing party or campaign is responsible for removing any watcher who is unprofessional or disruptive in his or her activities. Government conducted background checks are inappropriate and unnecessary.
Q. How is personal data like Social Security number, driver’s license number, or copies or signature protected from irresponsible watchers?
- The bill includes a watcher oath that prevents recording such data. It would be rare for watcher to have any need to verify a voters’ SS# or DL#.
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