Colorado works hard to ensure integrity of its voting system
Colorado’s elections processes and their outcomes are secure; you can trust them. As the current secretary of state, Republican Wayne Williams, and the former secretary of state, Democrat Bernie Buescher, we’re writing to assure you that our state’s systems work — despite threats of hacking and concerns of tampered elections. Both this office and our 64 county clerks are committed to fair and honest elections.
Let us explain briefly why we can speak so unequivocally about the security of our elections.
The Secretary of State’s office is constantly reviewing the voter rolls to ensure accuracy. We receive information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Social Security Administration to ensure the names of those voters who have passed away are removed from the rolls. We obtain information nightly from the Division of Motor Vehicles to allow county clerks to make address and other changes initiated by Coloradans. We run nationwide change-of-address searches in conjunction with the United States Postal Service and clerks inactivate voters whose mail is returned without a forwarding address. We match state and federal records on convicted felons and remove them from the rolls. We obtain information on documents used to obtain driver’s licenses and we remove noncitizens from the rolls. We share information with other states to remove duplicate registrations and prosecute those who vote in more than one state. And we conduct all of these checks with an eye toward making sure that we don’t unintentionally remove the names of eligible voters.
So, is the system perfect? No. But we can assure you Colorado’s county clerks work tirelessly to ensure that only the names of people eligible and registered to vote appear on the list, and the amount of error is very small. Adding the Social Security death index and expanded review of matching criteria enabled us to remove the names of dead voters, which is why the news reports cited older examples. Colorado has made a number of improvements in the last few years and we continue to work with the Legislature and clerks to make the system even better.
County clerks mail a ballot to each active registered elector in Colorado. Voters have the option of returning the ballot by mail, dropping the ballot off at a 24-hour drop box, or voting in person at a Voter Service and Polling Center. Drop boxes are under continuous surveillance and the ballots from them are taken to the clerk’s office by a bipartisan team.
Each step of ballot processing is performed by bipartisan election judges — with those judges appointed by the Democrat and Republican parties. Each step, including signature verification, is also witnessed by party-appointed watchers. During that step, election judges match voter signatures on every single ballot envelope against signatures on file. If the bipartisan team cannot verify the signature, the voter will be given an opportunity to cure the signature. If there is no cure, the vote will not be counted. This system works. In the most recent general election 10,000 attempts to vote without a matching signature were prevented.
Colorado’s voting and tabulation machines are secure. Every machine is tested for accuracy both before and after the election under the watchful eye of bipartisan election judges and observers credentialed by the state political parties. Voting and tabulation machines are sealed and stored in a locked room under 24-hour surveillance. The machines are never connected to the internet, so there are no external network vulnerabilities.
In addition to these security measures, all voting machines in this state are required to produce a paper record on which voters may review their selections, something not required in every state. This is important because it maintains a system of paper records that can be audited at any time after the election.
Colorado works hard to ensure the integrity of the system. While there are isolated incidents that Colorado will investigate and prosecute, it just isn’t possible to tamper with or rig an election on a large scale. Coloradans can vote with the assurance that their vote will be counted accurately.
This column was originally written for The Denver Post.
Wayne Williams was elected Colorado’s secretary of state in 2014. Bernie Buescher served as secretary of state from 2009 to 2011. Williams is a Republican from El Paso County. Buescher is a Democrat from Mesa County.