It has been suggested that we go back to a same day, in person election at the precinct level, in order to increase the integrity of the vote. To hand count at a precinct level leads to more issues than it can resolve.
El Paso County is the largest county in Colorado, with over 400,000 registered voters. The county has over 300 precincts. To hand count any vote we would need at least three people at each location. That’s well over 900 people just for the counting portion of the vote. Employing that many staff members would be a huge cost to the people of El Paso County.
To remove the mail-in ballot and only produce ballots in person also comes with issues. While people would need to go to their precinct to be able to vote, each precinct would need to be equipped with ballot on demand systems. Currently El Paso County has enough machines to man the main office and the 12 Voter Service and Polling Center (VSPC) locations. To purchase 300 more machines would again cost the people of El Paso County dearly.
If we take out the size of our county, and the cost to our people to hand count an election, there is still a large issue left. There is far more human error and bias in counting an election by hand. Human nature is to be imperfect. When it comes to reading ballots, we have our own biases creating issues we don’t even realize. The main reason people suggest that we move to hand counting is a lack of trust in the consistency of the way Dominion machines count or verify the votes they view.
It is important to know that the Dominion machines in El Paso County never reject a vote. They are used to verify the votes, and if they can’t accomplish that, they pass ballots to humans who follow a set of rules to verify the vote consistently in less than perfect situations. When audits are performed at the Clerk and Recorder’s office, if there is a discrepancy in the audit with the way a ballot should have been read, 90 percent of the time, it is an error in the way the human is hand counting the ballot.
If the goal is securing the integrity of the vote, hand counting ballots is a step in the wrong direction. I am against this approach as a candidate for the above reasons.
This issue is a question about the chain of custody around a person’s vote. You drop off your ballot, but how do you know that it ever makes it to the Clerk’s office, and how do you know that someone else doesn’t get it and change it.
There are many steps in place to provide a secure mail-in option and processes in place specifically to ensure the chain of custody. When the bipartisan team goes to the ballot boxes to pick up ballots, they bring a secure transfer case with a seal and a log that both members of the team have to sign to verify that it was in their custody the whole time.
Within the elections offices of the Clerk and Recorder there are more chain of custody items in place. The rooms have motion sensors, to get in or out you have a secure key and must sign yourself in and out. There are numbered security tags on all the access ports of the equipment so a drive can not be inserted to add or remove data without breaking a seal and being recorded. Even the drives that the elections team uses to transfer the data from the air gapped network to the websites to upload for the Secretary of State are special extra secure drives. Not only are they carried in a lock box for security, but if one is accidentally dropped, it times out within moments and if the wrong security code is entered three times, everything on that drive is erased for safety.
All of this and more is in place to make sure that our vote is as secure as possible. No system is perfect, but there are far less entry points for error in a mail-in ballot than an in-person vote system.
The issue around the Dominion Machines again has to do with the integrity of the election. The Dominion Machines have somehow gotten a name for being easier to hack. They might be easy to hack should someone have completely unfettered access to the systems, which is why there is currently security in place at the Elections office to make that improbable.
Currently in place the offices have an air gapped network for the machines. This means that they are not connected to any external internet, and a hacker can’t dial in, but would have to be in person to affect the system.
Every port on the hardware that someone can access the system with is sealed with a tamper proof numerically distinct lock or plug. This means should someone try to pull the stopper out to get a USB drive in and interact with the system, they would have to destroy the plug and the chain of custody seal would show that the system was tampered with, invalidating the system.
The facilities that the system is housed in have doors that are locked and only a keycard can access it. They have police that walk the halls regularly to check the security. They have motion sensor cameras that record 24/7 but put an alert in when the motion sensor goes off.
Broerman has seen to it that El Paso County Elections are an example of security within the state and the nation. Fighting for election integrity is something that you never finish doing, there is always more we can still do more to push that bar higher. One thing that we can still do is see about getting Dominion to give access to their source code for an independent “white hat” hacker company whose job is to find vulnerabilities in the software. Dominion could then address any issues they identify and then resubmit it to the company so they can break it again.
Black Box Voting is a term that refers to when companies that create the voting machines, like the Dominion Machines that we use, refuse to allow access to the source code that does the counting of the votes. They cite proprietary information most of the time, fearing that if the source code was open source, this would give people the ability to determine more attack vectors nonetheless.
My suggestion would be instead of using open source, that companies such as Dominion allow the states to choose an independent “white hat” hacking firm to have access to the source code for the purpose of breaking the system and identifying vulnerabilities. They would then report to both Dominion and the state, and Dominion would be given a limited amount of time to fix the vulnerabilities before the software was again evaluated by the independent company.
This could protect the company’s proprietary information while ensuring even more security for the elections of El Paso County.
In 2019 SB-235 Passed during the regular session. This bill for Automatic Voter Registration became law in July 2020. The Law instructs the Clerk and Recorder Motor Vehicle Department to transfer to the Secretary of State completed records of individuals who are not registered to vote already. Upon reviewing the record, the Clerk’s office sends mail to the unregistered elector, notifying them of their registration. That elector has 20 days after the notice is mailed to decline to be registered. If the mail is returned undeliverable that would also stop the registration. If neither happens, the elector is registered. If they did not choose a party to affiliate with at the office, they would be registered as an unaffiliated voter.
Some of the issues around this are from stories of individuals having their registration changed from one of the parties or the other to unaffiliated without anyone from the DMV’s office talking to them. As Clerk and Recorder, I would investigate the policies in our offices to make sure we are properly informing customers of the steps that happen when getting a new license with our offices. I would also audit the process to make sure that we are not changing the affiliation of people who are already registered. We can also add another check in the review process to stop such mistakes from being made.
The bill as a whole, I think is helpful for the people of El Paso County. It encourages people to register, and gives more accessibility for individuals who have already taken the time out of their day to get a new license. This will be especially helpful for working class citizens to have access to voting.