All-paper voting bill has bipartisan faceBy Myung Oak Kim
Top legislative leaders in both parties back it; county clerks skeptical
Colorado will be among the first states to return to an all-paper-ballot election this November if a bill introduced Tuesday becomes law.
The bill is a victory for activists who sued state election officials, saying electronic voting machines are untrustworthy and vulnerable to hacking.
"It is a huge step forward," said Myriah Conroy, a plaintiff in the 2006 suit against then-Secretary of State Gigi Dennis. "It is really brave and courageous of the (legislative) leadership to bring this forth."
But many county clerks call the paper-ballot proposal a step backward, predicting long lines and glitches on Election Day and delayed results. In fact, clerks nicknamed the measure the "Help Colorado Wait in Line Act."
"There is going to be chaos," Mesa County Clerk Janice Rich said Tuesday. "Welcome to Florida 2008."
The bill calls for voters statewide to cast paper ballots at polling sites for the August primary and November general elections, but also allows people to vote on touchscreen machines if they ask to.
The measure has unprecedented support - the only bill this year to be co-sponsored by the top Republican and Democratic leaders of both chambers, according to Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, D-Denver.
Backed by Gov. Bill Ritter, it is expected to quickly become law, but not without strong outcry from county clerks, who want to use machines or do mail-only elections.
Gordon, the lead sponsor, said he designed the 22-page proposal to address weaknesses in the state's election system and to raise voter confidence that was shaken when Secretary of State Mike Coffman banned scores of electronic voting and tallying machines in December because of security and accuracy problems. Coffman has since recertified many machines.
"When Mike Coffman decertified the electronic voting machines, he added weight to the concerns of many people in the country that the electronic voting machines are not reliable," Gordon said. "Whether or not this is true, I felt that the way to best ensure voter confidence was to move toward paper ballots."
In a letter to county clerks Tuesday, Ritter acknowledged the difficult environment for clerks. But he also pointed out the dangers of continuing to use electronic voting.
View Governor Ritter's Letter Here
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