Submitted to John Fryar, Longmont Times Call and Boulder Daily Camera reporter on 11-26-16 12:22 p.m.
Response to Boulder County Clerk’s Final Official Results Available for 2016 General Election
Peg Cage, Chairman, Boulder County Republicans
The Boulder County Clerk and her staff have completed a herculean effort to create, mail, collect, sort and tally the ballots for the 2016 General Election. Their successful efforts to find, hire and train over a hundred Republican Election Judges for the election season were amazing, and very much appreciated by me and Boulder County Republicans (BCR). I feel that for the most part, the taxpayers are well served by the clerk’s staff, who abandon their personal lives for months at a time to facilitate the many aspects of conducting an election.
However, the BCR canvass board members decided not to certify the 2016 General Election results.
One BCR canvass board member, Cathy Jarrett, has served as an election judge in many stages of ballot processing, was on the Logic and Accuracy Testing committee prior to the election and carefully watched the post-election audit of the scanning and tallying processes. Our other canvass board member, Marty Neilson, also worked the election and watched the audit, but was unable to attend the final meeting, so I appointed Al Kolwicz in her place. Mr. Kolwicz is the Chairman of the BCR Election Integrity Team. None of our board members found any problems with the audit and Jarrett and Kolwicz signed off on the audit.
Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall, in her report on the Final Official Results, stated that “It is a complete disservice to our community and to the hundreds of election judges and staff members who have invested thousands of hours planning and conducting our election to use the certification process as a vehicle to promote a personal agenda, which is what today’s action was.” She also stated that our members violated the oaths they took when joining the canvass board and that the claims they made to justify not certifying the election were erroneous, baseless, without merit and had no evidence to back them up.
I can assure you that if elections were simply about crunching numbers and balancing the received versus the counted ballot envelopes, we would have had no problem certifying the election. It would have been much easier for Jarrett and Kolwicz to simply sign the certificate and head off to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, but after their in-depth study of the election and much soul-searching, they did not feel they would be fulfilling their sworn duty to the voters in Boulder County. The oath they took stated that they would “faithfully perform the duties required of a member of the county canvass board,” which I believe they did. They did not walk into the canvass board meeting and decide to cause trouble for the clerk and her hard-working staff.
For years, members of the BCR Election Integrity Team have worked closely with the clerk, the legislature, the Secretary of State (SOS) and a larger, bipartisan group of election integrity advocates with the express purposes of being able to certify this election and providing voters the assurance of election integrity. Kolwicz and his team have been preparing for months to be able to take the data provided by the clerk on Monday and use the short 22 hours they were given to look at it and verify accuracy before the canvass board met on Tuesday. In August, as he was considering the data that the clerk had provided to the canvass board for the Primary Election, Kolwicz created a list of items that they had not received then, but that would be needed to quickly crunch the General Election data. He never received some of the critical items, as he details in the BCR Minority Report on the Canvass Board.
The “personal agenda” that Kolwicz and Jarrett had going into the canvass board meeting was to represent the voters, the candidates and the issue committees and assure that an “accurate and verifiable determination of the count” of the election results could be presented to the SOS for certification of the general election.
Yes, we have objections to the Colorado elections process. We believe that the new laws mandating ease and convenience of voting have diminished election integrity and put a false emphasis on the physical ballots and the governmental agencies that must deal with them. With all of the software, machinery and personnel it now takes a county clerk to run an election and the fact that voting continues for weeks, it is easy to start thinking that the election is all about the ballots. An election is not all about the ballots. An election is all about the voters [NOTE: The "purity" of any election is dependent on a high percentage of ballots being cast by legally registered Citizens of the USA]. Who do the voters want to represent them in the various governments under which they live? What laws and taxes will they have? The ballot is simply the mechanism that the voters use to convey their wishes to the clerks for tabulation.
Prior to the 2013 legislation, election judges verified the eligibility of each voter in each precinct. The voter received the correct ballot style for their residential address, recorded their vote by marking on their ballot and then personally cast it into the ballot box. At the end of the day, the election judges reconciled the number of ballots handed out to the number of ballots that had been cast into the ballot box, signed the judges’ affidavit and presented it with the ballots to the clerk for tallying. The canvass board could refer directly to the judges’ affidavits to confirm that only eligible voters had cast ballots, that each voter had cast the correct ballot, and that there were no more ballots cast per precinct than there were eligible voters living in each precinct.
No, we did not certify the Primary Election. The certificate our members were asked to sign stated that they had reconciled “the ballots cast in an election to confirm that the number of ballots counted in that election does not exceed the number of ballots cast in that election.” Since there are now so many legal ways for a voter to “cast” their ballot, and no way for an election judge or the clerk to record that incident of casting, the canvass board members could not in good conscience confirm that they had completed that duty.
Since the Primary, we have worked with the Secretary of State to try and rectify the “ballots cast” problem. Unfortunately, rather than creating a way to assure the canvass board that only eligible voters – and that all eligible voters – were able to “cast” their ballots in a manner that was easily confirmed, the SOS has chosen to redefine the term “ballots cast.” Throughout the 500+ page election statute book, the term “cast” is used to describe the action of the voter putting his ballot into a ballot box and relinquishing control of his ballot into the care of the judges. The new definition, Rule 1.1.8, states that: “Ballots Cast” means the total number of ballots received by the county clerk in an election. “Ballots Cast” does not include mail ballot envelopes returned to the county clerk by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable. We feel that this definition is unfortunate because it takes a historically accepted term describing a voter’s action and redefines it to be an action determined by the clerk. There are at least five different categories of ballots – mail ballot, in-person ballot, provisional ballot, remote ballot (email, fax, online), and DRE (Direct-Record Electronic Voting Machine) – each category is now considered “cast” at different points of the process. For the General Election, the canvass board members used the new definition, but the clerk was unable to inform them of the specific point in the process that the “cast ballot” count was taken. We will continue to work to resolve this problem for the voters.
There is much work yet to be done to align Colorado’s “easy voting” laws to the tenets of election integrity. I am encouraged to see more and more voters becoming aware of the important role they play in the election of their representatives in this American republic and in the integrity of those elections.
Chairman, Boulder County Republicans