Tag Archives: background check for watchers

SB-138 Why Add Background Check for Election Watchers Only in Colorado

Law must be generated from principle and it must be used to guide both rules and practice, not the other way around – Harvie

(Below e-mail was sent to Stan  Martin, Clerk and Recorder, Adams County, Christi Coburn, Deputy; Matt Crane Clerk and Recorder, Arapahoe County, Jennifer Morrell, Deputy;
Hillary Hall, Clerk and Recorder, Boulder County)

From: Harvie Branscomb
Subject: Re: background check for watchers- crucial? why? witness and verify is for canvass board not watchers?

Stan Martin and colleagues

Here is an addendum.

Further in consideration of a background check, Wendy Underhill at the NCSL has apparently written a paper listing qualifications for election watching in every state. There is no mention of a background check in any state law. Apparently Colorado would be unique if it were to pass SB-138 unamended. 

I cc Wendy in case she has any extra information on this topic to share.

http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/poll-watcher-qualifications.aspx

There is another document from NCSL that covers watcher and observer laws:

http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/policies-for-election-observers.aspx

There are many candidates on the 2016 ballot who might have felt the need to have representation within the electoral process. Obviously most of them did not. 
 
 Here is my response regarding Matt Crane's and Stan Martin's similar suggestions that "witness and verify" is the role and responsibility of the Canvass Board and not a Watcher.
 
 Stan Martin mentions that Senator Tate's definition of "witness and verify" is more appropriate to the role of canvass board. In reality the canvass boards have been guided by the clerks to be non-questioning and non-critical. Canvass boards by statute include the clerk who almost always serves, absent any rule or statute on this point, as the chair of the board.  This means the party of the clerk obtains a clear majority advantage and decisions of the canvass board are by majority.   
 
 Also there is usually only one canvass board member per political party and they are typically told to meet at the very end of the election process only to "sign off" on the election. There are also too few canvass board members to verify much of anything.  There is no mention of "witness and verify" in their role description- but perhaps there should be. Their role seems deliberately constrained to almost nothing - just comparing three sets of numbers- registered voters, returned ballots and votes counted. Often these numbers come straight from the results printed by the voting system.
 
 In fact the canvass board is designed to  represent the clerk's interest and perhaps the interest of two major parties but not the interest of various candidates in primaries and from third parties and the interests of ballot initiative committees and candidates in non-partisan elections.
 
 Thus, all non major-party interests are given access for election oversight only through the watchers' "witness and verify" while major parties are represented on the canvass board members and through partisan election judges.
 
 What Stan Martin could be saying is that canvass boards need to be constituted with more fairness and with more responsibility added to the information gathering portion of their role. But watchers still need to "witness and verify" on behalf of every stakeholder authority related to the election - both those not associated with the major parties and the major parties themselves.
 
 It is crucial that this conversation take place outside the limited context of existing Colorado election rules and practice. Law must be generated from principle and it must be used to guide both rules and practice, not the other way around.
 
 Harvie