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In Colorado election aftermath, questions about vote centers

By | December 13th, 2012

One takeaway from having attended two of Colorado Secretary of State’s election integrity hearings on the 2012 election, is that Colorado should consider shelving so-called “vote centers” and return to traditional precinct-level voting.

After Wednesday’s hearing in Denver, we spoke to Eagle County Democratic Party co-Chairman Harvie Branscomb, who is also affiliated with an election integrity advocacy group. We asked him: “Should Colorado reverse its commitment to vote centers?”

“I think there are a lot of problematic side effects to vote centers,” he said. “The primary virtue of vote centers is that it’s efficient and in some case, convenient. It’s being sold as convenient. But it actually makes citizen oversight very difficult. It requires the use of Internet connections between all of the poll books, which means the poll books are no longer on paper. They’re all done electronically. That means they’re on expensive pieces of equipment that you can’t fabricate out of thin air. You have to pay for them. You have to maintain them. You need enough of them to avoid having a line…”

“A lot of what I’m saying about vote centers could be applied to early voting. And in Colorado, early voting is quite often done by electronic voting device – so-called Direct-Recording Electronic (DRE) [machines]. So I’m a[n] advocate for use of paper ballots. I’d like to see paper ballots in all voting…”

The hearing also coincided with a meeting of the Commission on Best Practices and Vision, which advises Gessler in regard to his legislative agenda.

At the Arapahoe County hearing last week, concerns were raised that vote centers make the election system more vulnerable to system overload, irregularities and even possible manipulation or fraud.

“Some people testified that they saw buses full of people flooding the vote centers – one after another – at locations such as Smoky Hill, CentrePoint and Mission Viejo – all on the eastern side of Arapahoe County,” as we reported last week.”Vote centers are county-wide voting stations that were purportedly designed for voter convenience and to reduce personnel costs associated with more traditional precinct level voting, which the county abandoned in 2010. Nov. 6 was thus the first presidential election in Arapahoe County in which vote centers were exclusively used.”

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