Questions continue to swirl around activists’ complaints regarding irregularities in the Boulder County election process, and while the secretary of state has largely brushed aside the concerns, a local elections official says the clerk and recorder’s office will take them seriously.
Boulder Weekly reported in early September that there was evidence that ballots could be traced back to individual voters, and election concerns have snowballed ever since.
But in a Dec. 31 letter accepting the county’s vote totals, Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert dismissed most of the allegations outlined in a Nov. 26 report written by the majority of the local canvass board, which declined to certify the results of the election. That majority, namely two Republicans and two American Constitution Party members, has been at odds with Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall ever since the four began meeting without her blessing in late September and started questioning processes that Hall, a Democrat, said was outside their purview.
Their complaints include not being provided with detailed ballot information required by the secretary of state’s rules, observations that signatures were being verified by election workers in as little as 2.5 seconds each, watchers’ reports about an unreliable sorting machine and being denied access to certain election activities.
For the most part, Staiert said in her Dec. 31 letter, the complaints fell outside the scope of her office’s investigation and were not addressed because they would not have affected the outcome of the election. But she pledged to work with Hall’s office “to ensure compliance” with election rules.
Canvass board members still question whether their complaints will merit attention, even if they didn’t affect the outcome of the results.
“Why would you write rules if they’re not to be obeyed?” Canvass Board Chair Russ Boehm, a Republican, told BW. “I don’t care whether it changes the outcome of the election or not. I probably violate traffic rules every day, and even though it doesn’t change the outcome of the world, if I get stopped, I’ll probably get a ticket. … If a violation of these rules doesn’t cause the outcome of an election to change, then the rules essentially don’t count.”
He also questioned whether the reports of election watchers would prompt any follow-up.
“Why bother to have watchers when you’re going to run them through the shredder?” Boehm asks, adding that local election processes should be more transparent. “The loser should walk away knowing that the process wasn’t the reason for the loss. … It’s supposed to be our election. It can’t be the election that belongs to the elected officials.”
The response from the clerk and recorder’s office has been defensive instead of responsive, according to Boehm.
“Hillary Hall doesn’t want any help,” he says. “She knows answers to questions we haven’t even asked yet.”
But Deputy Clerk Molly Tayer told BW that the canvass board was provided with all of the election data required in the official abstract, including details the board claims were left out, like the number of provisional ballots by rejection code and the number of spoiled/ damaged ballots. Still, she says, all feedback — including areas outside the canvass board’s jurisdiction that members called into question — will be considered as the clerk and recorder’s office tweaks its processes for the next election, as it does every year.
Tayer says watchers’ reports will be archived, and that the complaint about election workers providing the wrong ballot style in six precincts — the concern that Staiert appears to have taken most seriously in her Dec. 31 letter, and which resulted in having more ballots counted than cast — was accounted for in final election results and is “pretty common in any polling place election.”
When asked whether her office would look into any legitimate concern raised by the canvass board, regardless of whether it affected the outcome of the election, Tayer replied, “Of course we will. Like I said, we learn in every election, and we make every election better as a result of the learning we do, so if that’s something we need to get a little more focused on, or learn a little bit more about how these processes perform, we want to do it. We want to do it well. It’s certainly information I will look at and I will consider, again, as we make improvements. I don’t know that there is anything there.”
The secretary of state’s office did not respond to a request for comment before press time.
Tayer stopped short of acknowledging that Boehm and other canvass board members identified violations.
“I don’t think that Russ has demonstrated we have not followed the rules,” she told BW. “We followed the rules the way we were asked to, and the way we have performed across many elections.”