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Few glitches during primary elections, review reveals

PERRY SWANSON    The Gazette Colorado Springs   23 August 2008

Election officials hit a few snags in the Aug. 12 primary, but vote counting was mostly smooth, according to a detailed review completed last week.

Voters in the major political parties picked their nominees for the Nov. 4 general election in the primary Aug. 12. The few problems that cropped up on election day were tied to election judges who didn't follow procedures, said Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink, whose office oversees elections.

"Every mistake that is made, we call all the election judges that are at that precinct and tell them what was wrong, and in many cases they're not going to work again," he said. "We use every one of these cases as a training tool for the fall."

In one case, election judges mistakenly put an electronic voting machine into "test mode," which prevented it from tabulating the ballots voters cast. Election officials noticed the problem at the end of the day when they received blank memory cards that were supposed to have recorded the votes. They corrected the problem by finding the paper printout the machine makes to create a physical record of each vote, Balink said.

Another error happened when an election judge allowed a voter to cast a blank ballot and then issued the voter another ballot. The mistake made no difference because the first ballot had no votes on it, but casting the ballot was still the wrong decision, Balink said.

The county employed about 2,000 election judges who got paid $140 each to work on Election Day and for three and a half hours of training.

In all, 64,034 people cast ballots in the primary election. That includes 814 people who used provisional ballots, which are used when a voter's eligibility is uncertain. Officials rejected 93 provisional ballots after a review found the voters weren't eligible to participate in the election.

Some provisional ballots were thrown out because the voter had registered to vote after the July 14 deadline, or because a mail-in ballot had been issued to the voter. Another group of provisional ballots didn't make the cut because the voters failed to sign an affidavit on an outer envelope stating where they live, their voter registration status and other details. Without the affidavit, officials can't verify the person's eligibility to vote.

"We have no idea whose ballot it was," Balink said.

That problem, too, goes back to election judges, Balink said. The judges should have ensured provisional voters signed the affidavit.

But the vast majority of provisional ballots were counted.

"That's the beauty of the provisional voting system," Balink said. "If there's an administrative glitch either on the part of the election office or the voter, their vote's going to count."


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