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This piece is the second in a three-part series about concerns related to election integrity in Adams County. See also part 1, “County clerk’s delayed ballot count reporting is politics as usual.”
As Coloradans finish voting and county election offices process thousands of incoming ballots, signature verification remains the only stopgap to voter identification fraud via ballot harvesting. It is the only place in mail ballot elections to challenge a forged ballot. Neither the clerks nor the process should inhibit or prevent challenges, though Adams County officials have been doing just that. Loopholes in the law also circumvent this verification process.
When first-time poll watcher Kathryn Lawrence asked Adams County Clerk Karen Long how many ballots had been rejected from the Signature Verification (SV) machine, Long said the machine kicked back approximately 6,500 of 10,000 ballots due to verification issues. This kickback rate is a matter of calibration, system configuration, and system design; there is no normal. As volume increases at this rate, resource needs will increase and/or the processing of ballots will slow, thus contributing to further delays.
After the SV machine rejects signatures, the process then requires a team of judges to review them. Colorado Secretary of State Rule 9 says a unanimous vote by both judges is required to accept or reject a questionable signature. If they cannot agree on a signature match, a second team is supposed to review it. Should a unanimous consent not be attained by the second team, then the a letter is sent to the voter to cure the signature.
The problem is in Adams County, watchers are only permitted approximately four seconds to look at the signature verification screen. During this time, they are expected to read, identify, evaluate, decide, and write down the name on the screen for any signature they want to challenge. Adams County judges have been instructed not to slow or stop the process for a challenge unless the name that appeared on the screen is recorded.
There is no way humanly possible to accomplish this under such constraints, especially when you have to stick your face in the screen to read fine print. This violates a watcher’s “statutory right” to challenge any elector and “correct discrepancies during the entire process of receiving ballots, cut the clerk has ultimate authority and ability to over rule. If watchers are denied meaningful access, then their rights are infringed, and that is what is happening in Adams County.
Long’s office further has created a rule that keeps poll watchers a minimum of six foot from election judges, thus impeding their ability to observe in many cases. Judges who are visually impaired or are hard of hearing are being denied access that will allow them to perform their duties. A successful challenge of this rule was included in the complaint filed with the SOS office. However, when I went to voting centers, the lead judge had not been issued any corrective action to take, and blue tape continues to mark the areas around judges which watches are still being instructed not to cross.
Some argue that poll watchers cannot slow down the process to challenge. However, mail ballot processing should not impair the rights of watchers or the rights to challenge. If this were a polling place and a line of illegal aliens were attempting to vote, officials could not deny a challenge because it would slow down the process. They could not legally insist, “You have to let these people vote because we cannot hold up the line.”
Poll watchers are also being limited in terms of how many are allowed in one room per party or entity. In large counties, where six teams of judges review signatures and 20-plus teams of judges feed ballots in the counting machines, more than one set of eyes is needed in the room. Yet in Adams County, the clerk is limiting one poll watcher per party to a room.
The objection here—interfering with poll watchers’ statutory rights—is that the space cannot accommodate a lot of watchers. However, if this were a polling place election, the government could not chase out the watchers attempting to challenge voters, claiming that they lost their rights to challenge because the polling place is too small.
Tags: Adams County, Colorado, election, Secretary of State, signature verification
- CO: Duplicate ballots, other election problems plague Adams County
- Loopholes in election law circumvent signature verification in Adams County
- CO: County clerk’s delayed ballot count reporting is politics as usual
- Out-of-state contributions at play in Colorado governor’s race
- CO: Media Observers Not Welcome in Off-Site Polling?