Vote centers bogged down by tie-in with state system, county officials say

Slow-moving lines at vote centers in Mesa County seemed to be caused at least in part by a connection to the statewide voter-tracking system, election judges and other officials said Wednesday.

The statewide system crashed Thursday about 15 minutes before the close of voting, but election judge Gary Parrott said that was just one of a series of problems that began as the polls opened.

“It was slow all day,” Parrott said.

He and his wife, Lori-Ann, worked at the Fruita vote center, the same assignment they drew in 2008 when the system worked smoothly. The difference was Mesa County was operating on its own database two years ago but was tied into the state system this year, Parrott said.

Had Mesa County remained with its own system, “everything would have been like clockwork,” Parrott said.

Mesa County Clerk Janice Rich and her chief deputy, Clerk-elect Sheila Reiner, said they had difficulty dealing with the system because of its glacial pace.

Judges who were typing information into the system frequently outpaced the ability of the system to keep up, Rich said. That slowed the process of entering information for each voter.

Officials with the Secretary of State’s Office were aware only of the problems that cropped up at what is known as the Front Range GigaPop, which is the computer networking service shared by a consortium of universities, nonprofit corporations and government agencies.

Officials heard no complaints from other clerks before the crash, Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Richard Coolidge said Wednesday.

Only counties that used vote centers were tied into the statewide network. That allowed election judges to check voters against the statewide database. That setup also allows voters to cast ballots at any vote center within their county of residence.

One vote-center county, Larimer, was allowed to operate vote centers without being tied into the statewide system.

“We utilized our homegrown poll book,” just as the county has done since 2003, Larimer County Clerk Scott Doyle said Wednesday. “We never had any glitches with that.”

Weld County Clerk Steve Moreno, whose vote centers were tied into the state system, said the election was running smoothly “until the system went down.”

He hadn’t heard of any complaints that the system was moving slowly before that, Moreno said.

Mesa County could have opted to use its own poll book, but it still would have had to buy software that would allow contact with the statewide system for certain operations, such as address changes for voters.

In 2008, “we did struggle trying to upload” that kind of new information, even while operating with the county database, Rich said.

For about 1,000 voters, election judges had to put the new information into the database and have the voters sign affidavits testifying to their new addresses before they were allowed to vote, Reiner said.

In all, 55,000 of Mesa County’s 72,000 voters cast ballots, a 76 percent turnout, according to final unofficial totals.

Official results are expected to be complete Nov. 19.


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