Colorado Shows the Way to Protecting Our Elections

Posted by Dale Eisman on July 18, 2017


While President Trump’s “Election Integrity” commission plots ways to make voting more difficult for millions of Americans, officials in one state – Colorado – have taken a critical step to make sure that every vote is accurately recorded and vote totals are accurately reported.

Colorado authorities announced on Monday that they’re implementing a vote auditing requirement approved by the legislature in 2009. Different ways of conducting the “risk limiting” audits have been tested in several localities across the state since then.

The audits involve cross-checking a scientifically-selected sample of the paper records created when each Coloradan votes against tallies generated by the machines that count those paper ballots. The procedure will allow Colorado to say, “with a high level of statistical probability that has never existed before,” that official election returns accurately reflect are the votes cast, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in a statement.

Election officials and computer security experts say the audits are an inexpensive and fast way to verify that the declared winner of every election is the person who actually received the most votes.

“If a voting system has been maliciously altered in some way, [this audit] should give the public great assurance that we are going to know that, and we will adjust the result accordingly,” Dwight Shellman, county support manager in the Colorado elections office and the official helping to coordinate the new auditing process, told POLITICO.com.

Colorado and New Mexico are the only states that currently conduct post-election audits “robust enough to detect cyberattacks” Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer scientist, told lawmakers at a June hearing on Capitol Hill. Those audits have been sporadic however; with Monday’s announcement, Colorado became the first state to make them a part of every election.

Computer hackers apparently working on behalf of the Russian government penetrated or tried to penetrate voting and/or voter registration systems in 39 states last year, according to sources quoted by Bloomberg Politics.

There is no evidence that the hackers managed to manipulate vote totals but they obtained detailed registration records in at least some of the targeted states. Former FBI Director James Comey warned senators last month that authorities expect the Russians will renew and intensify their cyber sabotage in the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections.

There is little indication that the president’s commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, is interested in the Russian threat. Instead, the commission is seeking detailed information about every registered voter, including their party affiliation and even their driver’s license and/or Social Security numbers.

The commission apparently wants to build a national voter database it could use to identify voters who are registered in more than one place. Because different people often have the same name and registration records aren’t always accurate, voting rights experts believe the database would be used to disenfranchise tens or even hundreds of thousands of qualified voters.

While election officials acknowledge that there are a substantial number of duplicate registrations, there is no evidence that people are casting multiple votes. Instead, duplicate registrations typically are created when voters move to a new city or county and fail to update or cancel their old registration before signing up in their new locality.

A series of studies led by Republican, Democratic and academic researchers have concluded that voter fraud is essentially non-existent in U.S. elections.

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Office: Colorado Common Cause, Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections

Tags: Registration and Voting Systems

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