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For Ref F, the devil's in the details Reversal of yes-no boxes on absentee ballots may confuse By Lou Kilzer, Rocky Mountain News October 12, 2006 Denver's voting machine contractor is sending letters to 44,000 voters warning of a mistake on absentee ballots this week. The beleaguered Denver Election Commission said it was not responsible for the transposition of the "yes" and "no" boxes on the measure for Referendum F, a measure that would change the way recall elections are handled. Late Wednesday, Sequoia Voting Systems took responsibility for the error, saying the company "deeply regrets" the mistake. Election officials said they had proofed the ballot, and the proof did not contain the error. Somehow, the proof was changed, said commission spokesman Alton Dillard. Michelle Shaffer, Sequoia's vice president for communications, said she did not know how the change occurred, but said Sequoia is paying for the printing and mailing of the warning letter. Dillard said that voters will not be sent corrected ballots. Voters should carefully read the Referendum F section and ink the box marked "yes" if they are in favor, or "no" if they are against. The commission also ran a test Wednesday afternoon to see if the ballot was so transparent that black marks on one side of the ballot could register as a vote on the other side. The test showed no mistaken votes, according to the commission. Dillard said that 10,000 ballots that are yet to be mailed would not have the error. Before they are put in ballot-reading machines, election workers will have to separate by hand the ballots containing the error from those now being sent without the error. That will take time and manpower, but the cost will be passed on to Sequoia, Dillard said "This was obviously not expected," said Denver election director John Gaydeski. This is the second time since July that the city has had trouble with Sequoia products. Trouble with card activators caused confusion at some polling places during August's primary. Denver, which traced the problem to improper training of election workers, has mothballed those machines for this general election. On Wednesday, the city auditor's office, which has warred with Gaydeski over the commission contract with Sequoia, said it will not approve $425,000 for Sequoia until questions are clarified. Auditor spokesman Denis Berckefeldt said his office believes that some payments requested for Sequoia need to first be approved by the City Council. He took another swing at Sequoia Wednesday, saying that "if Sequoia is making these kinds of mistakes, it calls into question the city's judgment" in dealing with the company. Sequoia was under the gun earlier this year after voting results in Chicago were delayed. Some Cook County politicians blamed Sequoia machines while Sequoia blamed the the training of poll workers. Denver subsequently purchased the card activators involved with the August primary glitches from Cook County. Gaydeski has said that the city was under the gun to comply with new federal voting legislation, and that products were in short supply. Denver has used Sequoia equipment for years. To upgrade its system to comply with the federal law, Denver gave Sequoia a non-bid $1.4 million contract last spring. kilzerl@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-2644

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