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Printer played role in Boulder voting woes

By Berny Morson, Rocky Mountain News
November 10, 2004

BOULDER - The head of a Denver company that printed ballots for Boulder County's troubled election acknowledged Tuesday he used a subcontractor who might have been responsible for the problems.

Howard Harris, president of Eagle Direct, declined to name the subcontractor, saying his company is ultimately responsible for the work. 
Harris did not rule out the possibility that his own printers might be at fault.

Boulder County Clerk Linda Salas said she wasn't aware Eagle Direct had subcontracted out some of the $143,000 job.

Boulder officials say bar codes on several thousand ballots were the wrong size. Scanners would not count the ballots, requiring election workers to do the tally, race by race.

The vote count took three days, making Boulder one of the last counties in the nation to report results and running up what Salas called a "huge fortune" in overtime and other costs.

A spokeswoman for Xerox, which manufactured and maintains Eagle's printers, said the mistake wasn't caused by their machines.

Kara Choquette said Xerox believes the error was made by the subcontractor, which uses different equipment.

Harris said the subcontractor uses machines manufactured by a unit of Kodak.

Whether the bad ballots were printed by Eagle or the subcontractor won't be known until they can be examined when the vote totals are certified next week.

Harris also said his company isn't solely to blame for the massive vote-counting delays.

"We are a part of the problem, and I am not saying we are not, but I cannot say we are the only problem and all of the problem," he said.

Harris said delays were also caused by write-in votes, which must be tallied by hand. Jason Savela received more than 8,000 write-in votes in his failed race against District Attorney Mary Keenan.

"That slowed the process down as much as if the ballots were bad," Harris said.

The programming of the scanners might also be to blame for not letting machines read bar codes that were off by an amount so tiny that it was not visible to the naked eye, Harris said.

Some of the scanners were not functioning during part of the count, Harris said.

"We haven't laid everything at (Eagle Direct's) feet. We said we're looking into it," Salas said.

But, Salas said, the scanners were not the problem. They were down only while technicians were trying to figure out why some ballots were being rejected - a search that ended when the printing problem was identified.

Salas said Hart InterCivic, which manufactured the voting system, was involved in the trouble-shooting and ruled out a programming error.

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