City asked for pollbook software; Documents refute vendor
By George Merritt, Denver Post Staff Writer, December 1, 2006
Records exchanged between Sequoia Voting Systems and the Denver Election Commission show the commission asked for Web-based software that could be used to check in voters on Election Day.
Those documents appear to refute testimony from a Sequoia representative who Wednesday told a panel investigating Election Day delays that he was unaware Denver was using Sequoia's software as a so-called "electronic pollbook."
Experts who examined Denver's technology faulted the Sequoia-designed software for crashing Denver's voter check-in system, leading to lines as long as three hours at some vote centers. Officials estimate that more than 20,000 people didn't vote because of the delays.
But Sequoia vice president Howard Cramer told the mayor's panel he was surprised to learn Denver was using the company's technology as an "e-pollbook" to check in voters at the polls.
"The first time I heard about it was on election night," Cramer told the panel, which was appointed by Mayor John Hickenlooper.
On Thursday, Sequoia spokeswoman Michelle Shafer said Cramer's statements may have been misconstrued.
"Howard (Cramer) certainly knew that we had a product that was being used in Denver, however, that has never been marketed as an electronic pollbook," she said. "That is not what we provided."
But documents released Thursday show the Election Commission specifically asked for that kind of technology as early as mid- January, about 10 months before Election Day.
A Jan. 12 software request from Sequoia states, "Development in Phase 1 of the registration book involves 'basic' electronic pollbook features."
The request also stated that the pollbook features needed to meet state statutes, which require electronic pollbooks for any county using vote centers. "It is not up for debate," Election Commission operations manager Matt Crane said. "I don't know how we can be any more clear on that."
Crane pointed out several functions that Denver requested for the technology, including the ability for judges at vote centers to verify a person's eligibility to vote.
"That is what an e-pollbook does," he said.
Included in those documents released Thursday was a July 14 memorandum negotiating pricing for the software, which ultimately cost the city $85,000. The e-mail was sent by Crane to several Sequoia employees, including his wife, Lisa Flanagan.
In the past, Crane has said Flanagan was not involved in Denver's transactions. On Thursday, he said she was included in the e-mail because her job involved support for the software being discussed.
Crane said Flanagan's position at Sequoia is one of technical support, with no authority to make decisions on purchases and no ability to earn commissions or bonuses from sales.
She has since moved to a different division, he said.
"The commissioners and the city attorney's office were aware of our relationship," Crane said.
Crane also noted the process for purchasing the technology from Sequoia started at least a month before he was hired at the Election Commission.
Meanwhile, the commission faced more criticism Thursday when City Auditor Dennis Gallagher said the final tally for switching from hundreds of traditional neighborhood precincts to 55 large, centralized vote centers will put the commission about $1.5 million over budget.
That figure would be a 50 percent increase over the allotted $3 million for 2006.
"Had we used precinct polling places, we would have avoided the problems on Election Day, and the cost would not have been anything like $1.5 million," Gallagher said.