Montrose County, Colorado, County Clerk Violates Election Laws

© 2006 by James Shea, Montrose Daily Press

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.


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Clerk and Hart Intercivic representative don't even know how to plug in voting machine on Election Day.

[EJF comments in Courier font]

December 15, 2006 — The Montrose County Clerk and Recorder's Office might have violated several election laws during preparations for the November election, according to a representative with the secretary of state's office.

John Gardner, the election equipment specialist with the secretary of state's office, discussed the technical aspects of the county's voting machine equipment, which is manufactured by Hart InterCivic, along with numerous procedural errors by the clerk's office. He, however, was not prepared to make recommendations to the Montrose County Election Review Task Force when it questioned him Thursday. [Note that Gardner was shown to be grossly incompetent himself in the fall of 2006.]

Gardner said it appeared the clerk's office did not test the voting equipment prior to the election, as required by law. He presented printouts of the clerk's computer logs that did not show proper testing of the machines.

Under state statute and rules set by the secretary of state, the clerk is required to perform a "logic and accuracy test." A bipartisan panel performs the test, which is open to the public and must be publicly noticed.

During the test, sample ballots are entered into the machines and checked for accuracy. The logs show tests on Sept. 29 and Oct. 20, 23, and 31, but Gardner said the information does not appear to show the tests were performed according to state statute.

"It's a pretty extensive test," he said.

The state became aware of the county not testing the equipment October 23 rd when Elections Supervisor Debbie Rudy contacted the secretary of state's office, Gardner said. The county had problems with the write-in candidate portion of the ballot on the machines and sought technical advice.

Gardner talked Rudy through the procedure for updating the machines but inquired about testing prior to the election.

"We were told they did not perform the logic and accuracy testing," said Tim Bishop, a secretary of state representative who accompanied Gardner.

He said many of the technical problems the county had on election day could have been discovered during the "logic and accuracy test." The county had numerous machines go down, part of which was blamed on not clearing the machines' memory prior to the election.

"It would have caught some of these problems," Bishop said.

Task force member Greg Fishering said he thought many of the problems would have come up during the primary, but he had not heard of any technical issues.

Gardner said he was not aware of any technical problems being reported during the primary.

Not having the test is a violation of state law.

"They could be pressed into an election offense," Bishop said.

Gardner also raised concerns about the clerk's office not reporting a security plan to the state. A few weeks prior to the election, a state judge ordered counties to develop security plans for monitoring the election. The plan includes cameras at the polling places, a secure chain of command and other procedures. Gardner said Montrose County submitted an initial plan, but it was only partially complete.

The state requested the county complete the plan and resubmit it. Gardner said the county never responded to the state's repeated requests.

He said it was not out of the ordinary that the county did not complete the plan. The state has only approved 37 plans. [What is the sense of having security plans if only about half the counties complete it?]

"What is not normal is not responding to our messages," Gardner said.

He said the clerk's actions could challenge the validity of the election.

"The election could be thrown into question," Gardner said.

But he said not all the problems with the election were with the clerk's office. Gardner said there are still concerns about some technical problems with the machines and whether the company provided the proper amount of support to the county.

He said Hart's representative in Montrose County did not have enough technical expertise or knowledge of Colorado Election law. The state has asked Hart to answer a series of questions about the election, but the questions have not been answered to the state's satisfaction.

"Clearly there were some issues with the people who were dispatched to the field," Gardner said.

He said the challenge with digital machines is the technical aspect. Montrose County chose to program the machines itself, but many counties in the state paid Hart to program the ballots. Gardner said a digital system, like Montrose County's, is a more complicated way of setting up a system to comply with federal law.

Gardner said the person at Montrose County who programmed the machines needed to be technically proficient and knowledgeable with new software programs.

"So, if the VCR is flashing 12, you probably should not be doing this," Fishering said.

"It is certainly not the easiest, but it is not the most complex," Gardner said.

Gardner said the county's problems with write-in candidates was technical. Rather than using the proper field to add the write-in candidate, the county tried to enter the write-in line on the ballot as a candidate. This was not the proper way to use the system and created an error.

The task force asked Gardner about other counties and how they involve their information technology employees. Gardner said some counties have them heavily involved and others have no involvement. The large Front Range counties usually have an IT staff dedicated to the voting office.

Fishering said he had to show the clerk's office and the representative from Hart how to properly plug in a machine the day of the election.

Another problem, Gardner said, was that Montrose County did not have enough memory cards on Election Day, called mobile ballot boxes. He said the county only had a few extra cards, but the state recommends a county have three to four times the number of cards as voting machines.

The task force will meet with outgoing Montrose County Clerk Carol Kruse and Rudy early next year. Its members asked Gardner for a list of information he needs from the county about the election.


Contact James Shea via email at


Voting snafus lead to investigation of Montrose County elections


© 2006 by Christopher Pike, The Telluride Watch

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

November 17, 2006 — In the wake of complaints from Montrose citizens and county officials about breakdowns in security and of voting machines as well as long delays at the polls in last week's election, the Montrose Board of County Commissioners has called for an investigation, County Commissioner Bill Patterson said Tuesday. "We just want to get to the bottom of it. At some voting centers, there were complete disasters. Machines were not working and secrecy was in question," he said.

"Obviously, an investigation is needed into what happened at the [Montrose] Pavilion," said Deborah Rudy, an assistant to the county clerk and election official at the Montrose County clerk's office. At the Pavilion, 11 of the 12 [Hart Intercivic eSlate Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines, or DREs, ceased operation, requiring voters to resort to the use of paper ballots, of which there were not enough in stock. In some instances, the ballot shortage forced precinct volunteers to issue photocopied sample ballots with text on only one side (a number of which were rejected by optical scanning equipment).

"I found it odd that Montrose didn't discuss security measures from the 16-page directive that came from Denver," said Regina Sowell, who was defeated by Fran Long 6,638 to 4,285 for the Montrose County Clerk and Recorder position. "And there were no paper ballots or backup when I voted at the Pavilion," she added.

That directive was the result of court-ordered emergency security procedures issued September 22 in response to a suit filed by Voter Action last summer in Denver calling for enhanced security procedures to be followed in voting, vote storage and related security and the processing of ballot information with DREs by county officials. In his ruling, Judge Lawrence Manzanares said the Secretary of State's office failed to develop minimum security standards required by state law, and did an "abysmal" job of documenting of the testing during its certification process; he went on to order the Secretary of State to adopt statewide security standards before the November 2006 election, and to further ensure compliance by all Colorado counties using the DREs. [Only 37 of 64 counties submitted security plans.]

According to Rudy, it was the "inexperience and poor training" of the staff and volunteers confronted with new tasks that resulted in problems.

"Really, everyone wants to blame it on equipment, but I don't think it was that," said Rudy, adding that although "our training was very limited. I received the best I could." [Blame everything but the electronic voting machines which, after all, were the problem.]

Furthermore, Rudy said, the Secretary of State signed off on all of the DRE machines used in the state, and "...we couldn't see any point in going to our interim step. We had to duplicate by scanning," she said. "This was really a difficult election for everyone. People really need to take that into consideration." Rudy went on to place some blame on the shoulders of the commissioners themselves, suggesting that, in the future, "the BOCC provide more staff." [Even blame the county commissioners who hired this woman to run the election. Obviously that was a mistake. And see the previous story for a description of the abysmal job the Colorado Secretary of State and her minions did with machine certifications.]

Patterson reported that when the sample ballots were found to be incompatible with the scanners, the votes had to be entered manually by volunteers, creating two potential "sources of error." Because "there was a shortage" of ballots, he explained, "they had to copy from them side by side on an open table," causing "a lot of uneasiness." The problem was then compounded, Patterson suggested, by "poor technical support" from the state. For instance, 113 different styles of ballots had to be printed, Rudy observed. "For provisional ballots, some precincts would vote for city and some for county measures and candidates. And some wouldn't. Others were in a fire district." [Every election official in every county faces the same problems with multiple ballot styles. Ms. Rudy is simply describing her own incompetence.]

Of Montrose County's seven voting centers, averaging four precincts per center, the center at the Pavilion was the most problematic. The other centers were located at City Hall, Friendship Hall, West End, Olathe, DMEA, and Valley Baptist Church.

When there was a breakdown, the judges had to go directly to updated poll books containing the names, addresses and precincts of the voters. Rudy noted that when the equipment failed at the Pavilion and only one booth was working, election officials had to reset and back up information there: "but there were only two memory cards for that set of equipment. I don't know why. Possibly inexperience," she suggested. [Incompetence and ignorance come to mind.]

Sowell, who paid close attention to the election process during her candidacy in part due to the electronic equipment issues, told The Watch that because Montrose County officials, who were "very confident" in the DREs and elected not to utilize the alternative of paper ballots with optical scanner as recommended by a nonpartisan panel, there was an insufficient backup plan. "I didn't know it would be so bad so quickly. I think the machines are more complicated than they appear," said Sowell.

The nonpartisan panel was made up of one Democrat, one Republican, one independent or unaffiliated, one Libertarian and one representative from the League of Women Voters, and at least one representative from the county clerk's office. "I realize it sounds like sour grapes, but my aim was still the same win or lose," said Sowell. "No electronic equipment - that was a big motivation for me to run for this office. The private entities with ties to the Republican party who provided these machines should give us a refund on the equipment and start over."

Patterson cautioned, however, that while there will be an investigation, there will not be a "witch hunt. We just want to learn from the mistakes made and determine how to improve in the future." [Obviously the electronic voting machines were the problem. Solution: Use hand marked, hand counted paper ballots.]



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| Vote Fraud and Election Issues Book | Table of Contents | Site Map | Index |


| Chapter 4 — Trust Our Election Officials? |

| Next — Chapter 5-Lies, Damn Lies, and Mail In Elections |

| Back — Key Voting Machine Certification Document Altered In Colorado, Examiner Proven Incompetent |


Added December 27, 2006

Last modified 6/14/09