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Secretary of state candidates question electronic voting

Mike Lawrence

— The two candidates to be Colorado’s next secretary of state are calling for stricter testing of electronic voting machines, if not for voting systems based primarily on paper ballots.

In the final days of a tight race, amid questions about the security and accuracy of electronic voting systems, Republican Mike Coffman and Democrat Ken Gordon differ about how to raise campaign funds, but agree that electronic machines – with the current certification process – may not be the best solution for secure voting in Colorado.

“I understand why voters are more comfortable with paper ballots,” Republican candidate Mike Coffman said Monday. “Unlike an electronic voting machine, there are no degrees of separation between a voter and a paper ballot.”

Democratic candidate Ken Gordon, a 14-year member of the state Legislature, said he has worked to make sure paper doesn’t leave the polls.

“I carried a bill requiring every voting machine have a verifiable written paper trail,” Gordon said. “Almost all of them now have that, so that helps raise my confidence in this year’s election. It will be better when all of the machines have paper, but at this stage, I would say people should have confidence in the election and should definitely vote.”

In a visit to Steamboat earlier this month, Gordon said current Secretary of State Gigi Dennis, a Republican, failed to properly test the four brands of electronic voting machines used in Colorado before certifying them for use in this year’s election – a view shared by Coffman.

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“I think that’s a legitimate criticism,” Coffman said last week, saying that re-certifying electronic machines will be a top priority if he is elected. “First of all, I’m going to restore confidence in our voting systems by launching an investigation into the electronic voting machines that are used in Colorado today. I’m going to conduct a re-certification process of those machines, under very tight regulations.”

Coffman said he has seen different levels of election security while campaigning across Colorado.

“In Routt County, I don’t think there’s a problem, because there are very good people working the system,” Coffman said. “But I do think there are some counties where there is a problem. I’m concerned about Denver. I think there’s a question mark there.”

Coffman currently is the state treasurer. He served in the state Legislature from 1989 to 1998.

A former Marine, Coffman served as a civil affairs officer in Iraq from August 2005 to March 2006, working to coordinate elections in Al-Anbar, Karbala and Najaf provinces.

Coffman recently received an endorsement from the National Defense Political Action Committee, a national organization of retired military officers.

“I think it recognizes my understanding of issues related to veterans and active-duty military personnel,” Coffman said about the endorsement. “I wasn’t able to vote in the last election, when I was serving in Iraq with the United States Marine Corps, because Colorado laws hadn’t been updated to reflect the fact that we had men and women serving in combat – and I will make sure as secretary of state that that never happens again.”

Gordon has refused contributions from political action committees throughout his campaign. Despite the decision, Gordon has received a total of about $314,000 in contributions as of Oct. 12, compared to about $292,000 for Coffman. Recent polls show Gordon and Coffman in nearly a dead heat.

“If I win this election, there will be one statewide elected official who didn’t take PAC money,” Gordon said. “I’m working for democracy.”

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