Our view: Say no to paper

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The election reforms implemented by Routt County are, by and large, appropriate. But allowing voters to use paper ballots if they choose is a step backward.

Last week, Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland and the Routt County commissioners agreed to return to precinct-based voting and letting voters choose between electronic voting machines and paper ballots.

Certainly, precinct-based voting will help ease the lines that plagued the November 2006 election. We agree with other reforms, including the expansion of early voting hours and increased voter education efforts.

But allowing the use of paper ballots in anything less than an emergency is, in our estimation, a mistake.

For last fall's election, the county moved to all-electronic voting at eight voting centers throughout the county. Voters could cast ballots at any voting center, regardless of the precincts in which they lived.

The result wasn't good. On election night, voters still were in line at 11 p.m., and many people gave up and went home or back to work because they weren't able to wait up to four hours to cast a ballot. There were not enough voting machines. There were not enough voting centers. And there was not enough familiarity with the new voting machines to address technological problems quickly.

The problems were so bad that Routt County was among four counties in Colorado named to Secretary of State Mike Coffman's Election Watch List.

The Routt County Election Review Committee was formed to review the processes used and recommend changes to prevent future problems. The return to paper ballots and precinct-based voting are part of the committee's suggested reforms.

Weinland is recommending the use of 10 polling locations in 2007. Most of the polling locations will serve two precincts. The change, we think, will allow election workers to better gauge how many voters to expect at each site.

But allowing the use of paper ballots will slow the process. In 2006, electronic voting was not the problem; a lack of machines and lack of technological familiarity with the machines - on the part of election workers and voters - were.

The county used 35 machines in the last election. Last week, county commissioners unanimously approved buying 20 more, bringing the total to 55. We don't think that's enough, and county commissioners would be better served buying more machines than necessary. We still think there should be 70 - enough for seven machines at each polling location.

Still, 20 additional machines coupled with better-trained election workers, heightened understanding of how the machines work, a shorter ballot and fewer voters likely will be enough to try all-electronic voting again this fall. Electronic votes are instantly tabulated; paper ballots must be counted. The paper-ballot option will invite confusion, slow the election process and unnecessarily delay the inevitable transition to electronic voting.

Our first effort at all-electronic voting did not go well. But that should not deter us from adding more machines, getting better trained and taking a run at it again. It is the right thing to do.

Comments

another_local 7 years, 3 months ago

I think the Pilot is right on this one. Get more machines. Don't use paper ballots. Let's keep moving forward.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 3 months ago

With absentee and early voting why does everyone wait to stand in line anyway? There has got to be a better way than to keep pouring money into more electronic machines that will always be questioned and probably be outdated (like computers) and hacker easy in a few years. Make it all mail ballots....make it "voting week"....vote by social security#'s - middle ss#'s 00-29 vote on monday, #'s 30-59 vote on tuesday, etc....do something besides dumping more and more money on machines. Hell, leave us out of it and let the media elect the government, they do anyway.

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dundalk 7 years, 3 months ago

We don't need more voting machines! We need to have a population who uses common sense and takes advantage of absentee ballots and early voting.

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corduroy 7 years, 3 months ago

I've heard that absentee ballots do not get counted unless its really close. That sort of talk doesn't really make me feel very confident that my vote would be counted. As for early voting, do they start adding those the day they start coming in? Or just wait until voting day anyways. There's got to be a better way.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 3 months ago

dundalk... I don't think common sense is very common anymore!

corduroy... are you actually confident in our voting system anyway?

Sorry... I've gotten very cynical (and sarcastic) in my old age.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 3 months ago

Why vote early, though? Give the candidates room to hang themselves up until Election Day. Instead, open polls an hour earlier, around 6am or even 5am.

Still, they way they did it last year wasn't satisfactory. I'd rather see more machines and have Precincts back to where you have to vote specifically at your precinct. I think too many people just went to whatever was closest to them depending on the time of day. That means if a large amount of people work close to the Courthouse, odds are, they will go there to vote if not directed to a specific precinct. That doesn't "spread the wealth" of people to different locations.

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ccgman2 7 years, 3 months ago

REGARDING YOUR COMMENTARY ON JUNE 6TH ABOUT LONG LINES FOR THE NOVEMVER 7TH ELECTION DAY; MAY BE THE RESULT OF PROCRASTINATION ON THE PART OF THE VOTERS. EARLY ELECTION WAS PROVIDED APPROXIMATELY 12 DAYS PRIOR TO ELECTION DAY AS WELL AS ABSENTEE BALLOTS. I VENTURE TO SAY THAT MANY OF THE 9876 REGISTERED VOTERS PASSED BY THE COURT HOUSE AND COULD HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGED OF THIS SERVICE ON THEIR WAY TO MCDONALDS OR STARBUCKS. MANY OF THESE SAME PEOPLE CREATE LONG LINES ON APRIL 15TH DEADLINE FOR MAILING TAX RETURNS AND BELIEVE THEY ARE SAVING MONEY.

MORE VOTING MACHINES AND PERSONNEL TO OPERATE THEM AND LONGER POST OFFICE HOURS TO ACCOMMODATE PEOPLE WHO WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE COST ALL TAXPAYERS EXTRA DOLLARS. WHO SHOULD CARE?

JIM O'CONNOR STEAMBOAT

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 3 months ago

I don't call what I do "procrastinating." I call it voting on Election Day, the way I've always done...as is tradition. I like going to the polls. Sure, I wait in line, but I'd rather vote in person at the polls. Now that I own and have figured out my MP3 player, I can pass the time in line nicely!

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