DENVER – Colorado’s county election clerks are sounding alarms about possible voting problems next month.
The Colorado County Clerks Association sent a four-page letter of complaint Monday to Colorado’s top elections officer, Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler.
Among the fears expressed by 10 county clerks was a complaint about software to let people register to vote online with mobile devices, such as smartphones and iPads. Because of a software glitch, Gessler’s office said nearly 800 voter registrations submitted through mobile devices in September may not have gone through.
The clerks criticized Gessler for not properly testing the site, and said they had to adopt emergency rules to ensure voters weren’t disenfranchised.
A spokesman for Gessler conceded Monday that “we made a mistake” with the registration app. But Andrew Cole said the mistakes were corrected with plenty of time before Election Day.
“We wanted to reach people where it was most convenient for them,” Cole said of the mobile registration app.
The clerks also took issue with a new policy for overseas voters. The clerks said that a print-your-own-ballot system for overseas voters was also improperly tested and has led to problems.
“Recent errors and oversights have created a cumbersome list of issues for local officials,” the clerks wrote.
The overseas voting complaint has to do with how those voters return their ballots. The clerks pointed out a possible security error, in which ballots were sent not as PDFs but available for download, discovered by county officials.
“The system was not properly tested and recently it was discovered that anyone could download, print, vote and return a ballot to be counted,” the clerks wrote. “While there are security checks provided by the county to ensure that these ballots would not in fact be counted, the fact that anyone could access a ballot raises concerns on the testing process when setting up the system.”
The clerks said they had time to contact overseas voters and correct possible insecure balloting. But they chided Gessler by telling him they prevented a possibly “quite serious” electoral nightmare.
“If any contests are close, these ballots would have been contested and results called into question,” the clerks wrote.
Gessler has been under fire for devoting his office’s resources to find non-citizens on the state’s voter rolls – something he maintains is a vulnerability in the system. But so far, his office has found 141 suspected noncitizens registered to vote, or about 0.004 percent of the state’s nearly 3.5 million voters.
Gessler has argued it’s a worthy cause to maintain accurate rolls, especially when elections are close.
The clerks also complained about glitches requiring more time to process online registrations and a poor working relationship with the secretary.
“We ask that your office spend less effort attempting to transfer blame to local officials and more time championing the strength, accessibility, accuracy and transparency of Colorado elections that serve our citizens so well,” the clerks wrote.
Cole countered that the clerks’ complaints were either unfounded or have been addressed.
“The items that they’re talking about have all been aimed at – and have – increased voter registrations in Colorado to the highest levels ever,” Gessler spokesman Andrew Cole said.