Disgruntled voters, judges and city officials voiced their grievances about the Denver election debacle today in a public hearing before city council.
Council members heard testimony from election judges who described poor training, 17-hour shifts and technical and bureaucratic breakdowns. While condemning the poor planning of election officials, judges praised the tenacity and patience of voters, many of whom waited hours in line.
Karen Morrissey, who is running for a spot on the Denver Election Commission, said commissioners had no plans in place to deal with possible problems on Election Day.
There was “too much planning based on the assumption that things will go right, and not assuming that things will go wrong, because they always do,” Morrissey said. But while everyone agreed changes are needed, there was no consensus on the right solution. Some urged for a return to precincts, while others said vote centers will work if other changes are made. City auditor Dennis Gallagher called for electing a single county clerk in place of the three-member election commission.
“The status quo isn’t working,” Gallagher said.
Denver resident and election judge Steve Lang disagreed.
“I’ve seen no evidence that the current election commission structure was the cause of the problems,” Lang said.
He said proper vetting of election officials to ensure competence was a better solution.
State Senator Ken Gordon said voting problems were not isolated to Denver County.
“I would like to see the problems fixed statewide,” he said.
The three much-maligned members of the Denver Election Commission also weighed in. Susan Rogers, Sandy Adams and John Gaydeski acknowledged mistakes were made and apologized to voters and election judges.
Rogers defended the decision to go to vote centers, insisting they were necessary to remedy problems with precincts in 2004 and to comply with the Help America Vote Act. Rogers said she didn’t think there would have been long lines if not for the technological failure of the electronic poll book.
Adams also supported the vote center system. She said Colorado was one of only three states in which the legislature had authorized vote centers, which she said allowed Denver to comply with the HAVA requirement to have handicap-accessible polling places. She said the commission considered HAVA to be civil rights legislation, and therefore compliance was essential.
“I hope we don’t throw vote centers under the bus,” she said.
Gaydeski kept his comments brief.
“I can’t tell you how much we owe you for the good work you did,” he said to election judges. “I apologize to you and to the voters of Denver. It will not happen again.”
Although brought up several times during public testimony, none of the commissioners addressed the question of why they chose Sequoia Voting Systems to design the electronic poll book. The commission gave Sequoia an $85,000 no-bid contract for the project, which many have said could have been done by a local company for much less. The poll book’s glaringly poor design has been well documented.
Read Colorado Confidential’s coverage of Denver’s voting disaster:
DEC Shrugs Over Election Debacle: ‘It Happens’
DEC Tech Chief Placed on Leave
Anthony Rainey and the DEC
Rainey Will Keep Mum and Collect His $8,000
City’s Response to Election Complaints
Denver Election Commission Needs More Money (Again)
Poll Worker: Sequoia to Blame, Not ‘User Error’