Thursday, November 06, 2008

Objection to Daily Camera Editorial Staff

TO: Erika (Stulzman) of the Daily Camera Editorial Staff
(copy of a letter to Erika written through the Daily Camera web site)

I would hope you get a chance to educate yourself on the election reform topic more before writing again about how bad it might be that Boulder is slow reporting vote counts. Speed of reporting is just about the lowest criterion for quality in the election, and there is much which should be prioritized over speed. I hope you come to realize how destructive the pressure for quick reporting can be. This is an enormously complex topic and some of us are basically devoting all of our free time to trying to understand it, and testify about it on behalf of the voting public at the Legislature. I have written about what is wrong with Colorado election law, as well has testified on numerous occasions. I do hope that you will contact members of the Boulder community of election quality activists such as Neal McBurnett 494-6493 (Green) or Al Kolwicz 494-1540 (Republican) or Mary Eberle 442-2164 (Unaffiliated) or Margit Johansson 442-1668 (Democratic). All of us have been working together to improve elections.

One of the greatest challenges is to spread a better understanding of the reality of voting through the media. I just don't understand why you wrote the following:

"But the county needs to get it together. If Jefferson and Denver counties can have their votes counted in a timely manner (and they did), why can't we? A serious dialogue about scrapping our system is step No. 1. Had this been a contested election with major problems, Boulder County's mysterious "dust" would be this year's hanging chads. That is unacceptable.
And a note to anyone wanting to challenge Hall for her clerk's position because of the slow election results: That's what she said."

I don’t disagree that a discussion about scrapping the system is in order. In fact a discussion about scrapping all the systems in Colorado is in order. The technical test board of the Secretary of State actually recommended not certifying any of the voting systems currently in use in Colorado (except hand counting). Only through the catch-22 of Colorado law and with the help of our 2008 Legislature could our Secretary of State (now Congressman to be) Mike Coffman personally decide that all voting systems were ok to use. There are better voting systems which could be certified and there are certainly better systems which could be designed if state laws would only accommodate these better ideas.

It could be that Jefferson and Denver counties are not as careful as Boulder County about election quality. Have you checked? Why not investigate the truth about "hanging chads"? These were foolishly presented as the worst thing that ever happened to an American election when in reality they were an indication of a reasonably well designed voting system valiantly recording evidence of voter intent when rank mismanagement of the voting system made it very difficult for voters to vote. Rank mismanagemnet on a totally electronic voting system leads to no record of voter intent whatsoever. Think about it. That is a very good reason to use paper ballots. Paper ballots allow voters in difficult situations (and eligible voters represent a spectacularly wide variety of human characteristics not the least of which includes old age) to express themselves. Machines do have difficulty interpreting some of these marks on paper ballots, although they are quite good at adding them up, once the marks have been understood.

I would be glad to send you more information about the defects of Colorado elections and election law, and would invite you to attend the Election Reform Committee hearings on Nov 12, although these should be taken with a grain of salt considering that the Commission consists of mostly election officials who are not the ones who most need a commission to improve the election... they have considerable power in their own hands. Perhaps you could widen the scope of your writing on this topic.

FYI Eagle County votes with a similar system to that of Boulder County. I am the Canvass Board member for the Democratic Party. I have first hand experience, through testing, of the various defects and benefits of that system, although I am now sure I have not seen all the defects yet.

Please send me your email address and I will reply with more information.

Harvie Branscomb
Eagle County Canvass Board
Colorado Voter Group

No comments: