Colorado election threats

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State voter registration procedures

This section details threats to voters from and problems with the state's voter registration system.

Registration verification, database and rejection

  • November 28, 2008: More than 300 of the purged voters requested provisional ballots on Election Day[1][2]. This demonstrated that the voter purges went well beyond "removing voters who had died, moved or filed duplicate registrations" as had been claimed by the Secretary of State.
  • November 21, 2008: The Democratic state representatives in Colorado are preparing legislation that seeks to centralize many aspects of election administration under the office of the Secretary of State, a move that would take power away from individual county clerks. The proposed change, which The Colorado Statesman reports[3] would give the state control over "voter registration processes, voter identification requirements and the training of election judges", has drawn objections from state Republicans on the grounds that it's politically motivated.
  • October 30, 2008: 1,400 Denver voters who neglected to check a box on their voter registration form (but still provided the required ID) will be allowed to correct the error at the polls on election day. They will then receive regular ballots, instead of provisional ballots. The plan was approved by the Colorado Attorney General over the objection of Secretary of State Mike Coffman. [4]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Colorado's voter registration database preparedness as "inconclusive," citing, "The state is two years late in complying with the HAVA database deadline due to problems with its original vendor. According to the office of the Secretary of State, the statewide voter registration system was successfully deployed to all 64 counties in April, 2008 and that all of the counties will use it in November. Press reports say several counties have announced that they will not be using the centralized database system after glitches caused problems in a test-run in spring 2008."[5]
  • An article, Is Colorado the next Florida?, discusses possible problems with Colorado's election system. Colorado is using a new voter database system called Statewide Colorado Registration and Election (SCORE). “I suspect it is going to work,” says Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Scott Doyle. “I hope.” Common Cause and the Fair Elections Legal Network fear an overload. There are also fears about faulty voting machines.[6]
  • Oct. 28, 2005: Denver prosecutors charged two ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) employees with falsely filling out multiple voter forms to boost their pay in a paid registration drive.[7]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Colorado's National Voting Rights Act implementation as "inconclusive," citing, "State law calls for NVRA implementation. ACORN/Project Vote study notes variation across counties in §7 implementation, though there has been recent improvement."[5]

Student voting rights

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Colorado's student voting rights as "mixed," citing, "Students must establish residency to vote, which requires matching car registration, state income tax, and a driver’s license to the student's college address. A student identification with an address and photograph or a letter from a public university satisfies the identification requirement. The Secretary of State's website states that students may choose to vote at either their college or parents’ address."[5]
  • On Sept. 24, 2008, it was reported that Republican El Paso County Recorder Robert Balink admitted to falsely informing Colorado College that out of state students could not register to vote in Colorado if they were claimed as dependents on their parents' tax returns. Balink's office had created a flier on student vote registration containing the false information and urged the college to post it around campus. Balink admitted the mistake after it was publicized by the county's Democratic Party.[8][9]

Felon voting rights

Quoting from an October, 2008 report[10] on "de facto disenfranchisement" (summary)(download PDF) co-published by the Brennan Center for Justice and the ACLU:

"Interviews conducted in Colorado in 2004 and 2007 found that half the local officials did not know that people on probation could vote."

"In Colorado, individuals with federal and out-of-state convictions are eligible to vote upon completion of incarceration and parole. Officials interviewed in 2007 were extremely confused about the restoration requirements for individuals with federal and out-of-state felony convictions. Seventy-two percent of officials responded incorrectly or inaccurately regarding eligibility for individuals with out-of-state convictions, and 69% responded incorrectly or inaccurately as to the eligibility of individuals with federal convictions."

See also "felon disenfranchisement" issue page

Voter education

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on voter education, how to vote, information on elections, etc.

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Colorado's voter education on polling place location and hours as "mixed," citing, "By Law: notice by publication of polling place hours is required no later than ten days before the election. Postcards with precinct numbers and polling locations must be sent to all active eligible electors no later than 25 days before the general election or special legislative election.[5]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Colorado's sample ballots as "unacceptable," citing,"Sample ballots not mailed to voters by Secretary of State Office or available on Secretary of State’s Website."[5]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Colorado's ID requirements as "mixed," citing, "No off-line efforts."[5]

Absentee and early voting

This section details problems with and threats to the state's absentee and early voting system.

  • An error[11] by vendor Sequoia Voting Systems resulted in over 11,000 absentee ballots never being mailed to the requesting citizens. Officials are trying to get new ballots to the affected voters in time to allow them to vote.

Voter suppression and intimidation

This section details problems and threats involving fraud, intimidation and suppression efforts.

Deceptive practices laws

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Colorado's deceptive practices law as "unsatisfactory," citing, "It is illegal to “impede, prevent, or otherwise interfere,” with the voting process. No law specifically addresses deceptive practices."[5]

Voter caging, purges and other eligibility challenges

  • November 12, 2008: The list of voters removed from Colorado's rolls in the 90 day preceding the election, required by a recent court settlement, was released by the Secretary of State's office.[12] More than 44,000 individuals were purged from the voter list, a larger number than expected. Common Cause and other groups involved in the earlier lawsuit have pledged a close oversight to ensure that any eligible voter who was forced to vote on a provisional ballot due to the removal will have their vote count.[12]
  • October 31, 2008: U.S. District Judge John Kane ordered Secretary of State Mike Coffman to stop purging names from the voter rolls and immediately reinstate 146 voters removed since 9 p.m. October 29, 2008. [13] "There has been a violation of federal law, and that must cease and stop immediately," Judge Kane said from the bench. "That is the order." [14] The ruling follows an earlier settlement reached Oct. 29, 2008, which cleared the way for all voters purged within the 90 days before the general election to be allowed to vote using a special provisional ballot.[13] In statements to the Rocky Mountain news, Coffman insisted that Wednesday's settlement did not preclude the removal of additional names, but will comply with Judge Kane's order.[14]
  • October 29, 2008: A settlement was reached in a lawsuit filed by the Advancement Project [15] to reinstate up to 35,000 voter registrations previously removed. After an eight-plus hour negotiation hearing, all sides agreed to allow purged voters to vote on provisional ballots provided certain conditions are met.[16] The terms of the settlement require Coffman to create a list of all voters removed within the 90-day no-purge period; voters on that list will be required to vote on a provisional ballot, but those ballots will have a presumption of eligibility unless proven otherwise.[16]
  • October 16, 2008: Call for demonstrations at Secretary of State's office to protest disenfranchising voters.[17]
  • Colorado will review its voter purging. An October 9, 2008 New York Times story, "Colorado to Review How It Purges Voters’ Names,"[18] quotes Colorado election officials advising voters to make sure their registration information is accurate. "Colorado election officials said Thursday that they would review the way the state removed voters from the rolls and in the meantime encouraged voters to check their registration information to ensure its accuracy."
  • October 4, 2008, it was reported that Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman had invalidated up to 35,000 new registrations due to an obscure problem with the registration form. According to the report the voters filled out the forms correctly, but will not be allowed to vote.[19] On October 25 the Advancement Project filed a lawsuit Saturday on behalf of Colorado Common Cause, Mi Familia Vota, a voter registration group, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed a lawsuit against Coffman seeking to "prevent any more voters from being purged from the list of eligible voters for any reason not allowed by the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA).It also seeks to "identify and reinstate any and all voters who were improperly purged from the official list of registered voters during the 90-day no-purge period, except those exempted by the NVRA."[20]
Main article: Voter roll purges

Voter intimidation and deception

  • 11/14/2004 Election judges in Boulder, Denver, Jefferson, Douglas and Weld counties gave incorrect instructions to voters about IDs, and more alarmingly, sent dozens of these voters away without allowing them to cast ballots. Some judges incorrectly told provisional ballot voters that they should only vote for president. Some judges were still redirecting voters to other polling places or clerks' offices minutes before the close of polling instead of offering provisional ballots.[7]

Polling places and voting

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on election practices, polling places, workers, providing election equipment, etc.

Poll worker training, recruitment and distribution

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Colorado's poll worker recruitment as "mixed," citing, "Minimum precinct staffing is three poll workers. High school students 16 year of age and older may serve as poll workers. Counties are responsible for recruiting poll workers."[5]

Voter ID requirements

Polling place and voting machine accessibility, distribution and wait times

  • 10/21/2008. Denver. Some voters who showed up at Manual High School after the polls were open for one hour were told there weren't enough ballots. One of the voters said she went back to Manual High early in the evening, "and they still didn't have the right ballots." She said an election judge told her they were going to have to get some printed. [7]
  • Colorado's 2008 ballot is so long that the average voter is expected to take 12 minutes to vote. However, Colorado has a law allowing poll workers to remove voters after 10 minutes. This law is not expected to be enforced this year.[21]
  • Black Box Voting has placed Douglas, Montrose, Pueblo & Routt Counties on their Watch List[22] because of a history of long lines, and threats this will continue in 2008. From the report:

"Douglas, Montrose, Pueblo & Routt Counties: These counties also made both the Black Box Voting and the State of Colorado Watch Lists, though the state took Routt, Montrose and Pueblo off its list recently. The counties were placed on Watch Lists due to severe quality management problems which led to long lines (In a 2006 Douglas County election, the last voter was stuck in line until after midnight!); the counties have also been afflicted with incorrect voting machine operation, inadequate supplies, and most concerning, failure to follow security requirements. Black Box Voting will keep these counties on our Watch list through the November 2008 Election."

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Colorado's voting machine distribution as "unsatisfactory," citing, "Paper-ballot-using counties will provide a 'sufficient number of voting booths” and electronic/electromechanical equipment-using counties will provide “sufficient voting equipment'."[5]
  • FairVote warned that in 2008, "some counties in Colorado have not adequately prepared for the anticipated turnout," "voting equipment in the state severely lacks uniformity" and "some counties use arbitrary allocation methods based on where machines are stored and “best guesses” to determine how many booths are in each precinct."[23]
  • 11/8/2006 Douglas County. The county's 300 eSlates weren't enough to handle the turnout with such a long ballot, says the County Clerk in an apology to the voters. 200 more are needed to avoid long lines.[7]

Ballot design

  • 11/14/2006 Denver. Sequoia misprinted the barcodes that identify precincts on absentee ballots, so the county has to sort 70,000 ballots into the 23 different ballot styles. "Sequoia's vice president of communications, Michelle Shafer, did not return four calls and pages seeking comment."[7]

Provisional ballots

This section lists past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on provisional ballots. Particularly, what are the state's criteria for receiving a provisional ballot (including voting in the wrong precinct) and its procedures for verifying eligibility and then including those votes in the totals.

  • According to an October, 2008 Demos study,[24], in Colorado,

Almost 36 percent of rejected ballots were thrown out because they were cast in the wrong precinct. An additional 15.2 percent were rejected for being cast in the “wrong jurisdiction.”

Vote verification and security

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on vote verification and security.

Malfunctioning voting machinery

Main article: Voting machines
  • For an extensive log of voting machine problems, see the VotersUnite! report on election incidents.[7]

2008 election

  • 8/12/2008. El Paso County. At the Holmes Middle School's Polls, 2455 Mesa Rd, Colorado Springs, in Precinct's 147, 197, and 250 when the Judges were doing the closing tallies on the Diebold Touch Screen TSx, the unit locked-up when the supervisors card was inserted. The screen read "NOT AUTHORIZED", and election judges could not print a tape of the tallies to post on the entrance door as required by law/code. Further, they were not able to balance the voter record books that all the judges have to verify & sign. When the supervisor called the election clerk's office for what to do, they were told to just pack-up the Diebold TSx and bring it to drop-off point as this was happening with many of the units around the county. [7]
  • 2/17/2008. Testing discovered that the eScan optical scanner continues to have the problem that led to its initial decertification in the State. It fails to detect and count marks on the ballot consistently, leading to inaccurate results.[7]

Prior to 2008 election

  • 11/6/2007. Weld County. TSx voting machines displayed the wrong ballot in voting centers across the county. Poll workers distributed paper ballots until the problem was fixed around 9:15 am.[7]
  • 11/17/2006. Montrose County. Machines broke down in all seven vote centers. Montrose Pavilion was the worst, where 11 out of 12 eSlate electronic voting machines broke down. Insufficient paper ballots were available, so poll workers made copies, which the scanners failed to read.[7]
  • 11/14/2006. Denver. One of two absentee ballot scanners broke down and had to be replaced during the counting process on election day.[7]
  • 11/7/2006. Denver. Power failures, voting machines crashing, electronic poll books failing cause long lines and chaos in the Denver election. Judge refuses to extend the voting time. Voters are encouraged to go to other vote centers, but many vote centers are experiencing similar problems.[7]
  • 8/9/2006. Denver County. Paper printout was wrong on the Sequoia Edge. Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff was the second person to try to vote on a new machine at Washington Park, but his vote for himself did not print properly.[7]
  • 11/3/2005. Pitkin County. Nearly 1200 phantom votes (more votes than voters) were reported in one precinct. Diebold AccuVote precinct optical scanners were used. "A recount is possible if election officials can't pin down the exact cause of the problem."[7]
  • 11/2/2005. Morgan County. Mechanical problems on old ballot scanners cause delays in counting.[7]
  • 11/10/2004. Boulder County. Some of the scanners (Hart Intercivic) were not functioning during part of the count. In addition, ballots had to be counted by hand because the barcodes weren't printed correctly "The programming of the scanners might also be to blame for not letting machines read bar codes that were off by an amount so tiny that it was not visible to the naked eye."[7]
  • 11/9/2004. Boulder County. A printing error that distorted bar codes on Hart Intercivic paper ballots is being blamed for delays that made this one of the last counties in the nation to report election results. Scanners rejected ballots with the bad bar codes, requiring election judges to tally those votes race by race. Voting equipment was tested before the election. But the printing error occurred only on actual ballots that went to voters, not the test ballots.[7]
  • Black Box Voting has placed Jefferson & Mesa Counties on their Watch List because of potential voting machine problems. From the report[22]:

"Jefferson & Mesa Counties: These two counties are on the Black Box Voting Watch List because they are using one of the worst voting machines in America, one that has been discontinued in state after state. The iVotronic touch-screen is famous for malfunctions, fraud symptoms, and a vendor that coerces counties to become so dependent on its drive-by technicians that local election officials can't run the election at all without them."

Voting machine verification and security


  • Black Box Voting has issued a 2008 Watch List warning for Arapahoe County[22], saying, "Numbers for machine tapes did not match central tabulation in Nov. 2004 presidential election."

Vote tabulation procedures

  • There is a September, 2008 report that Colorado is contracting with an extremely partisan contractor to host their election results server and perform "middleman" functions that could potentially manipulate reporting of election results. The server contractor also hosts,

"numerous sites for the Republican National Committee, many anti-Obama propaganda sites (but no anti-McCain sites and no Democratic sites); Republican candidate domains; over a dozen sites from various domains owned by "Prosperity for America", a partisan think tank that traces back to principals from an enormous privately held oil company Koch Industries."[25]

  • Black Box voting warns[22] that Denver County could take as long as three days to count the 2008 Presidential election ballots:

"Denver has now ditched its touch-screen voting machines and has reversed the disastrous consolidation of polling places tried in 2006. Denver announced a move to paper ballots, which is a good thing, but then went out and bought used vote-counting equipment (read: Voting machines that are being discontinued.)

The county bought eight Sequoia Optech 400C machines and is hauling all the ballots in to one place to count them. Toting ballots around town before counting them is never a good idea.

Watch for: Who's on the transport teams, late arrivals, condition of ballot boxes on arrival. Update: Yep, some ballots didn't arrive until after 10 pm in the August primary. What happened to them? We need to get our hands on some documents."

Recount procedures

Chain of custody of ballots and e-voting equipment

  • November 3, 2008, "Sequoia Voting Systems, one of the top four voting machine vendors in the country, failed to print and deliver more than 18,000 absentee ballots to Denver County, Colorado, even though the company had assured officials the ballots were delivered, according to the Denver Post." Voters who requested absentee ballots failed to receive them.[26]

Election public official issues

  • 12/15/2006 Montrose County. In violation of state law, county election officials did not perform pre-election testing. Appropriate testing is likely to have detected a ballot programming error affecting write-in selections. Nor did the county submit a security plan before the election, as required by a court order.[7]

Premature media race calling

Vote result challenge procedures

Articles and resources

See also


  1. Renest Luning, "More than 300 voters purged by Coffman cast provisional ballots," Colorado Independent, November 28, 2008.
  2. "More than 300 purged voters cast provisional ballots on Election Day," Denver Post, November 25, 2008.
  3. Chris Bragg, "Dems seek to centralize elections", The Colorado Statesman, November 21, 2008.
  4. John Ingold, Denver has fix for incomplete registrations, Denver Post, October 30, 2008
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 Common Cause chart of election issues in Colorado, part of the "Voting in 2008: 10 Swing States," a Common Cause report released September 16, 2008. The areas looked at include: voter registration, voter identification, caging and challenges, deceptive practices, provisional ballots, voting machine allocation, poll worker recruitment and training, voter education and student voting rights.
  6. Naomi Zeveloff, Is Colorado the next Florida?, Colorado Independent, October 7, 2008.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 This past problem and description are from the VotersUnite! Election Problem Log. Click through for included links to origin of report.
  8. From Colorado: El Paso County Recorder sends misleading flyer to college president.
  9. Greg Gordon, "Election officials telling college students they can't vote," McClatchy Newspapers, September 24, 2008.
  10. Erika Wood and Rachel Bloom,De Facto Disenfranchisement, Brennan Center for Justice and American Civil Liberties Union, October 21, 2008.
  11. See "Vendor Error Blamed For Missing Ballots," Denver Channel 7 News, October 25, 2008.
  12. 12.0 12.1 John Ingold,44,000 purged in state,The Denver Post, November 12, 2008
  13. 13.0 13.1 John Ingold, Judge orders Coffman to stop continued voter purge Denver Post, November 1, 2008
  14. 14.0 14.1 Todd Hartman, Judge halts purging of voters Rocky Mountain News, November 1, 2008
  15. "Coffman sued over voter purge," October 25, 2008.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Naomi Zeveloff, Purged voters can cast provisional ballots in Colorado, Colorado Independent, October 30, 2008
  17. Call for demonstrations at Secretary of State's office to protest disenfranchising thousands of voters, ( Oct 16, 2008)
  18. Ian Urbana, "Colorado to Review How It Purges Voters’ Names," New York Times, October 9, 2008. This story was referred by Election Protection.
  19. Robert Nemanich, VOTER SUPPRESSION IN COLORADO---GOP Sec of State, final weekend of registration, TPM Cafe Reader Post, October 4, 2008.
  20. "Coffman sued over voter purge," October 25, 2008.
  21. Summary of parts of: Cara Degette, Amid scandal, Colorado is at election storm central: Are we ready?, Colorado Independent, October 6, 2008.]
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 From Black Box Voting, (CO) 2008 election protection Watch List locations, retrieved October 12, 2008.
  23. FairVote survey of county clerks. Uniformity in Election Administration: A 2008 Survey of Swing State County Clerks, Colorado Edition. October 6, 2008.
  24. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named DemosOct28
  25. Bev Harris, "Partisan Contractors to Count Votes in Illinois, Colorado and Kentucky," AlterNet, September 30, 2008.
  26. Kim Zetter, Wired Blog Network Sequoia Voting systems Failed to Deliver 18,000 Absentee Ballots to Colorado County November 3, 2008, 8:00 PM

External resources

Poll location

Election Protection hotlines

Voting information

Voting rights

Voting requirements

Election officials, election reform groups, and elected officials

Absentee voting

Disabled voters

Student voting rights

State ballot

  • See how organizations you trust recommend you vote on ballot measures and other statewide contests at TransparentDemocracy.


  • Help in other languages from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. 中文, 日本語, 한국어, Tagalog, Tiếng Việt, Español

Voting machines

External articles

Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times. [. . .] The screening or trimming of voter registration lists in the six states — Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina — could also result in problems at the polls on Election Day: people who have been removed from the rolls are likely to show up only to be challenged by political party officials or election workers, resulting in confusion, long lines and heated tempers.

On Election Day, FVC identified six problems that we believe are significant:
1) Election judge trainings were inconsistent and in some cases inadequate
2) In some counties, absentee ballots were not mailed on time, and voters who did not receive an absentee ballot were not always permitted to cast a provisional ballot at the polls
3) In a number of cases, registration information was incorrectly entered into county lists, not entered at all, or not delivered to county clerks in a timely manner
4) ID requirements varied between counties
5) Provisional ballot rules were unclear and inconsistently implemented
6) Some polling places suffered significant logistical problems