Paper tigers

We are nearing the end of the first decade of the 21st century, with technological changes coming furiously in just about every area of our lives. Yet the Election Reform Commission for the state of Colorado is clinging obsessively to 18th century technology — paper ballots for elections.

The commission, which will make recommendations to the state Legislature on how to improve Colorado’s elections, reached a compromise of sorts earlier this week. That agreement would recertify electronic voting machines currently used in counties such as Mesa County, and allow them to be used in elections through 2013. But, under the recommendation, every county in the state would have to switch entirely to paper ballots for the 2014 general election.

We hope the Legislature rejects that part of the commission’s recommendations when the package reaches the Capitol. As Commission member Scott Gessler put it, “The evidence that we’ve seen is that electronic voting machines work in Colorado. Paper ballots have deficiencies as well as electronic voting machines ... I think that one size cannot fit all here.”

And Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Janice Rich told the commission that switching to all paper ballots while meeting reporting requirements for each precinct would be “a logistical and budgetary nightmare.”

They shouldn’t have to make that shift.

The reason this is an issue is because a group of activists opposed to electronic voting sued the state in 2006 and threatened to disrupt last year’s elections because, they claim, electronic voting machines are too prone to problems.

The chairman of the Election Reform Commission, former state Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, supports their views and has pushed for a statewide requirement for paper ballots.

But there have been few problems with electronic voting machines in Mesa County or in most of the other counties in Colorado that use them. Moreover, five years from now, when the switch to paper ballots is supposed to take effect, the technology for electronic voting machines will almost certainly be more advanced and more secure. Why decide now that they should never be used again?

The Legislature should quickly adopt the measure that the electronic voting machines be recertified. Otherwise, the certification will expire in July. But lawmakers should drop the idea of banning electronic voting machines by 2014.


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