Letters | Do not black out ballot bar codes


I am writing to address your editorial in this week’s Boulder Weekly concerning bar codes on ballots. (“For the record, I will be voting in secret,” DyerTimes, Sept. 27.) I have been working as a volunteer election processor for the Boulder County office for the last 12 years and have to comment that your article is full of incorrect information. I have done pretty much every job there is to do in the office during those 12 years and need to say that if voters follow your advice it would be a disaster for voting in Boulder County. Why? Let me count some ways.

1) Boulder County has many different ballots, with different candidates and different questions. One of the bar codes is put on there to identify the ballot type, so that the ballot reading machine knows what ballot it is — i.e. what candidates, what questions. The reading machine can distinguish only one thing, and that is at what position there is a mark on the ballot. What that mark represents is totally dependent on what ballot type it is identified as being, by the bar code. The reading machine cannot read names of candidates, it can’t read yes’s or no’s, it can only read the position of that mark. So if you remove the bar code, it can’t read your ballot.

2) There is no correspondence of the sequence number on the ballot with the voter. The ballots come in a packet starting with the number one and the ballots are handed out in order as the voter comes into the polling place. There is no “tear-off ” stub to be handed to the voter on the ballot. There may be on the envelope the ballot is put into, but that has no relation to the ballot whatever. The ballots are removed from those envelopes immediately after voting ends and are randomly placed in a ballot container.

3) The main reason for the sequence number is to be able to match ballot pages. Most of our ballots are more than one page, so there has to be a way to determine which pages go together. Pages that go together have the same sequence number.

So, please don’t black out your bar code. You are threatening to sue if the clerk’s office doesn’t count your ballot. It is not that they won’t count it, it is that they can’t count it if you black out the code. The machine won’t accept it.

Dave Axtell/Boulder

Editor’s note: Thanks for your letter.

Your statement that “there is no correspondence of the sequence number on the ballot with the voter” has not been correct as recently as the last primary. BW was able to trace the numbers to voters. The county clerk says things will be different this time, yet she inexplicably refused to allow BW to observe the printing and shuffling of the ballots from the print facility’s observation room this past weekend, so we don’t know if ballots are traceable this time or not. We hope they are not. As for your statement that ballots that have bar codes blacked out “can’t” be counted, that is also incorrect. If the intent of the voter on the ballot can be determined, then the votes must be counted. There are several ways that this can be accomplished, as pointed out by the county clerk herself. It is not my intent to make anyone’s job more difficult. It is my intent to preserve my right to vote in secrecy. It is Boulder County’s insistence on using a ballot system unlike all the other voting systems in the state that is the problem here, not voters taking action to protect their right to a secret ballot. Thank you for your concern and your service to Boulder County voters.

Vote no on 64

Many longtime cannabis activists in Colorado have come out against the language of Amendment 64, for good reason. A64 is being billed as “legalization,” but it really is not. Steve Fox, a lobbyist for D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project and the main author of A64, actually lobbied to have the word “legalization” taken out of the ballot title because “legalization would be truly misleading” to the voters. A64 is about regulation, control, more laws, and more police to enforce those laws. It is not true legalization (removal of criminal penalties).

A64 does remove the criminal penalty for one ounce of cannabis. However, two ounces is already completely decriminalized in Colorado, punishable only by a ticket and $100 fine as a petty offense. So A64 sets a constitutional standard that is actually lower than what we have in statute.

A64 was modeled after HB 10-1284, a bill that was designed to shut down 80 percent of existing medical marijuana dispensaries. By setting a limit of one ounce as the amount that you could legally buy from a retail marijuana store, A64 guarantees the creation of a non-confidential registry of marijuana users who want to buy commercial marijuana. Section 6 (d) of A64 actually makes it constitutional to discriminate against marijuana users by employers, schools, hospitals and landlords.

A64 would give the Department of Revenue complete constitutional authority to regulate all marijuana in Colorado in any way they want. The DOR has already proven corrupt and incompetent in its administration of the medical marijuana program. To give them total control of cannabis, without any legislative oversight, is truly frightening.

A64 also allows the state to set unlimited taxes on cannabis, without a vote of the people. (As a separate constitutional amendment, A64 is already “de-Bruced” and supersedes TABOR.) Cannabis was originally made illegal in 1937 by a prohibitive tax in the Marijuana Tax Act. A64 continues in that prohibitionist tradition by allowing the state to use taxes to essentially prohibit marijuana.

Supporters of A64 admit that the language is flawed, but say it is a step in the right direction. It is not a step towards legalization, it is a step towards guaranteeing that only large corporations will be able to produce cannabis in Colorado. In addition, A64 law will continue the medical marijuana scenario of “good” pot smokers pitted against “bad” pot smokers. The “good” pot smokers will provide the funding to create a whole new branch of law enforcement dedicated to prosecuting the “bad” pot smokers, e.g., those that don’t want to be on a registry and be subjected to home inspection. This takes cannabis Prohibition to another level, with more authority and funding for the police to go after “bad” pot smokers. This is not a step towards “legalization.”

Don’t be fooled by the hype. Read the language and decide that this law is not good for Colorado.

Timothy Tipton, Cannabis Policy Project/via Internet