Gallagher: Fire election officials
Denver Post By George Merritt and Mike McPhee 08 November 2006
Denver woke up today with a bad hangover, after embarrassing computer glitches prevented thousands of residents from voting, piles of absentee ballots still to be counted and a call for heads to roll.
Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher today asked that Denver's two elected voting commissioners - Susan Roger and Sandy Adams - resign and that the mayor fire Clerk and Recorder Wayne Vaden as well as the entire senior staff of the election commission, including executive director John Gaydeski.
Gallagher promised by the end of the week that he would push a previously rejected charter change to overhaul the structure of the commission, discarding Denver-s three-commissioner system for a single, elected clerk and recorder.
"The council and the mayor already has a chance at this and they decided not to go forward," Gallagher said.
Gallagher said Tuesday's mistakes were so severe that he questioned the outcome of some races.
"We may never know what the real outcome of some of those races were," he said.
Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez - who pushed the overhaul more than a year ago - said a majority of the City Council has already contacted her, asking for the charter change.
But she said Gallagher's call for heads is "irresponsible at this time" because commission officials have to complete the election.
Mayor John Hickenlooper, who said Tuesday he was "angry" about the election problems, said he plans to meet with the media today.
Denver Election Commission workers came to work early this morning to be faced with piles of absentee ballots, as many as 47,000, still to be verified then counted. The uncounted votes were not expected to be enough to sway either the state treasurer's race or the secretary of state race. The effect on local ballot issues could not be determined. But at least one high-profile issuethe funding of Denver's preschoolscould be affected.
Pueblo County official said they had nearly 20,000 absentee ballots still to be counted today.
Delays and breakdowns also hampered voting in Montrose and Phillips counties, and several other counties were unable to provide complete results well past midnight.
Elections officials across the state struggled Tuesday with new machines and new procedures, delaying vote counts, angering party officials who worried their supporters would give up and go home, and turning a civic rite into an ordeal for many.
"I can't believe I'm in the United States of America," said Sean Kelly, a Denver resident who gave up and went home after waiting three hours in line at a polling place Tuesday.
Adding to Denver's woes, one of the county's two optical scanning machines for absentee ballots broke down. Election Commission spokesman Alton Dillard said he didn't expect a complete tally "optimistically" until Friday.
"We are embarrassed and chagrined that our expectations were not met," Dillard said today. "We apologize to the Denver voters for the inconvenience they endured."
"This is one of the longest ballots in state history, which translates to absentee ballots of four pages insted of two pages. It takes longer to count."
One heavily advertised measure, a proposal to increase the sales tax rate by .12 percent to fund preschool, was eking out a margin of less than 1,000 votes - a toss-up given the number absentees out.
Several other counties hadn't reported final returns by the time the state's earliest commuters were warming up their cars today, including Douglas, Adams, Montrose, Routt, Park and Grand.
State officials had predicted a relatively high 60 percent statewide turnout for the midterm election, or some 1.8 million voters out of nearly 3 million. Secretary of State spokeswoman Lisa Doran said long lines were reported around the state, from Denver to Steamboat Springs, which she blamed on the long ballot - with 14 proposals - and new voting machines.