RBC (AP) — State leaders on Wednesday backed off a plan to switch to paper ballots this year, leaving counties free to use electronic voting machines that were considered unfit until about a month ago.
Gov. Bill Ritter and many lawmakers had pushed for paper ballots in 2008 but reversed themselves after opposition from county clerks.
Secretary of State Mike Coffman had de-certified most of the electronic equipment used in Colorado in December, citing accuracy and security concerns. But he re-certified all of it after testing new changes and talking to county clerks.
With time running out to make the change to paper, Ritter said Coffman’s decision to re-certify of the machines, combined with the clerks’ opposition to the switch, led him to change his mind.
He said his office will continue to work with the clerks to address any potential election problems.
“We’re going to work every day and night to make sure we have a system that works in the fall,’’ Ritter said.
Money also became an issue. State officials had planned to spend $11 million to pay for the switch to paper but most of that money dried up this week as lawmakers finalized their proposed budget.
Paul Hultin, a lawyer for a group of activists who don’t think the machines are reliable, said state officials were ignoring studies by computer scientists questioning the machines.
“Nothing has changed. The machines are what they are,’’ Hultin said.
Coffman said that the re-certification process was “rigorous and comprehensive’’ and that voters can trust that the systems are secure and accurate.
Nancy Amick, president of the Colorado County Clerks’ Association and the Rio Blanco county clerk, said counties are now free to run their elections as they wish, either by paper ballot or electronic machines.
“We’ve got elections to run,’’ she said. “We need to get down to business.’’
Colorado’s elections are expected to draw record turnout because of the hotly contested presidential campaign, an open U.S. Senate seat and several competitive races for the U.S. House.
By Colleen Slevin
Special to the