March ballots pass first test
By RICHARD VALENTY Colorado Daily 04 February 2005
Ballots for the March 8 special City Council election are scheduled to start going out in the mail Feb. 11, and local election officials tested ballots printed by system vendor Hart InterCivic Thursday in efforts to prevent counting problems that plagued the Nov. 2 general election.
"We are very pleased," said City Clerk Alisa Lewis after the test. "We had 100-percent accuracy. There appeared to be no damaged ballots that we can ascertain at this point."
Lewis and County Clerk Linda Salas recently flew to Hart headquarters in Austin, Texas to observe Hart's ballot printing process. Lewis said the vendor printed 61,000 ballots and separated them into 25 stacks. The clerks pulled four ballots randomly from each stack for a total of 100 ballots.
Lewis said she worked with Salas and Hart project manager Linda Herod to log ballot numbers of the ballots pulled and then verify the accuracy of the log sheet.
"I then 'voted' all of the ballots, did a hand tally, and everything was sealed in a provisional ballot bag with a numbered seal," said Lewis. "We are maintaining that level of security all the way because they are actual, live ballots."
Lewis, Salas and county elections staff scanned the ballots on four scanning stations at the County Clerk's office Thursday morning. Lewis said all four stations produced results identical to her hand tally.
Printing company EagleDirect supplied the ballots used by Boulder County in 2004. Some of the Eagle ballots were delivered with toner irregularities, and a county Election Review Committee (ERC) is still evaluating whether some ballot counting problems were caused by Eagle, Hart, the county's Kodak scanner or Eagle's Xerox printer.
Lewis said she observed Hart quality control in action this week when Hart caught some ballots printed with minor problems.
"They found some that had slight speckles on the side edges of some of the ballots," said Lewis. "They pulled each of those out and reproduced them even though they ran them through the scanner and they read just fine."
Lewis said she did not intentionally mismark any of the test ballots to see how the system might catch improperly marked ballots.
"We will still do Logic and Accuracy Tests (LAT) where we can do some of those other things," said Lewis. "This process was to make sure the quality of the ballots, the printing, was accurate."
Lewis said the group ran ballots through each scanner once and did not test the ballots on multiple passes through the machines.
Salas said county staff ran tests on other ballots printed by the county using Hart's ballot-on-demand software Monday.
"They ran a set of ballots through the system six times," said Salas. "They took ballots and instead of feeding them in top-first, we put them in feet-first, and they ran perfectly with absolutely no errors."
Eagle officials suggested last Friday that the county system may not have read some ballots because Hart set scanning tolerance requirements Eagle believes could have been loosened. Salas said Hart did not alter the tolerances for Thursday's test.
Local citizen voting enthusiasts did not attend Thursday's test, and activist Joe Pezzillo said he will believe accurate results when he sees them first-hand.
"They said everything tested fine last time, too," said Pezzillo.
The ERC will hear Hart's account of the 2004 election Friday at the County Clerk's office, 1750 33rd Street at 1 p.m. Also, unregistered voters have until Monday to register for the March 8 election.