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Long Lines, Glitches Frustrate Voters

Computers That Verify Voter Registration Go Down Temporarily

The Denver Channel | UPDATED: 9:21 pm MST November 7, 2006

DENVER -- Balky, unreliable computers, the times during the day and there weren't enough
longest statewide ballot in decades, high voter machines to meet the need, 7NEWS reported.
turnout, new centralized vote centers and unfa-
miliar new voting machines have frustrated Also, the volunteers who were inputting the in-
thousands of voters who found themselves wait- formation in the computers were slow, election
ing at least an hour to cast their ballot Tuesday. officials said.

The problems were most severe in Denver and A Denver Election Commission officer called the
Douglas counties, with lines that extended out voting problems "embarrassing" but said it was
of the buildings and sometimes down the block. an important learning lesson.

At 7 p.m. when polls closed, hundreds were still


waiting in line in both counties and were told to
expect to wait a couple more hours until they
reached the front of the line. The last person to
vote in Denver was expected to vote at 9:30
p.m.

Both Democrats and Republicans were worried


that voters were turned off by the long lines,
and leave without casting their vote. Denver
County leans Democratic while Douglas County
is a Republican stronghold.

"We're slammed," said Carole Murray, Douglas


County clerk and recorder. "It's just a big turn-
out and a long ballot."
Lisa Marie Ledesma took this photo Tuesday
Of the 12 machines at one Douglas County vote morning of unused voting machines at the Wel-
center, only a few of the machines were work- lington Webb Building while people stood in
ing throughout the day, 7NEWS reported. That line for more than an hour.
led to lines that were four hours long at 7 p.m.
Carol Conner, 69, waited in line for two hours
to cast her ballot at a public recreation center in
Highlands Ranch. She said she's lived in Douglas The lines were at a standstill until those com-
County for 13 years, and has never waited so puters were back online. Unlike voting in pre-
long to vote -- but she'd do it again if necessary. cincts, where volunteers could check paper reg-
istries to see if the voter is registered to vote in
While the problems in Douglas County dealt the precinct, Denver voters were all listed in
with not enough working voting machines, the voters rolls that could only be accessed through
biggest problem in Denver was the laptop com- the laptops.
puter system used to verify voter registration.
If the laptops went down, or were having prob-
The server that the computers were operating lems, there was no way to see if a person was
went offline or got bogged down a couple of registered to vote in Denver County.
It was the first general election in Denver since later and then counted, but those ran out, he
it switched to 55 regional voting centers from said.
scores of precincts. Denver was one of 21 coun-
ties in Colorado that were using voting centers While most voters were patient, several who left
instead of precinct polling locations. the long lines said they planned to search for
other vote centers with shorter lines or not vote
Elections officials in the state's biggest city were at all.
already planning to hand-copy as many as
30,000 absentee ballots because of a printing Both Democrats and Republicans had poll
mistake on a proposal to change the handling of watchers stations at polling places to keep an
recall elections. eye out for irregularities.

One Denver voter said she waited in line for "Denver was a disaster and this disaster hit low-
almost two hours in downtown Denver while income people and people of color voters the
nearby voting machines stood idle. hardest. One woman we spoke with had been to
three different voting centers and with comput-
"The problem was waiting for people to pass ers crashing, long lines, and general incompe-
through the screening process, of residency and tence, she wasn't able to vote today. This was a
registration," said Lisa Marie Ledesma. disenfranchisement nightmare," said Bill Van-
denberg of the Colorado Progressive Coalition.
She said election officials at the Webb Munici-
pal Office Building encouraged those standing New voting machines also made for slow going
in line to contact Denver election officials to let across Colorado, said secretary of state spokes-
them know that they need more laptops and woman Lisa Doran.
officials checking for registrations.
"Despite the training, some of the election
In Westminster, almost 4,000 Xcel customers judges are intimidated by the machines," she
were without electricity Tuesday morning and said.
the power outage was affecting voting there.
Power was restored about an hour later. Power Jon Winterton, 66, who said he had been wait-
failures slowed voting at some Denver locations, ing for an hour and 15 minutes at the Washing-
but voting machines had backup power and ton Park polling place, didn't mind.
weren't affected, a spokesman for the Denver
Election Commission said. "I love voting. Tonight is like other people's
football games. I love watching the returns," he
Kevin Caffrey, a 43-year-old school teacher from said.
Denver and a registered Republican, was furious
after he was forced to stand in line for more At Denver's Botanic Gardens, where the line
than an hour. stretched outside for quite a ways, the Gay
Men's Chorus entertained voters waiting it out.
"Every individual who put me in line, I'm voting
against them. I've been waiting in line like an At a senior center in a northwest Denver resi-
animal. This is a nightmare," he said. dential neighborhood, volunteers for both gu-
bernatorial candidate Bill Ritter and America-
"This is positively ridiculous," said Jack McCros- Votes were letting people know which vote cen-
key, clutching his cane while waiting at the ters had shorter lines. They kept in touch with
Washington Park polling place in southeast volunteers at other polling places with cell
Denver. "At 82, I don't deserve to have to stand phones and pointed out the locations on maps.
out here. What if it had been 10 degrees today?"
Lots Of Issues, Lots Of Voters
Some voters in Denver were turned away and
told to come back, said Brian Mason, a spokes- Election officials expected a 60 percent turnout,
man for the Democratic Party. Others were or about 1.8 million voters to participate in this
given provisional ballots, which can be verified
election. That includes more than 600,000 who Ritter is facing Beauprez in a battle for the gov-
have already voted absentee or early. ernorship.

The big reason for voter turnout was because of Early restults show Ritter leading the race. As
the big interest in the mid-term election. Voters governor, Ritter could change the political dy-
were considering 14 statewide proposals and a namic in Colorado, particularly if Democrats
number of issues, including whether Democrats keep control of the state Senate and House,
will end up controlling the governor's office and something that worries many Republicans.
the Legislature.
"I think they're very fearful of losing the gover-
That hasn't happened in more than 40 years, nor's mansion and not being able to regain con-
when John F. Kennedy was president. trol of the state Legislature," said Norman
Provizer of Metro State College.
In the congressional races, Bob Beauprez's open
seat in suburban Denver was being sought by Republicans are reminded that Beauprez, if
Democrat Ed Perlmutter and Republican Rick elected, could keep the Democratic Legislature
O'Donnell. in check.

GOP Rep. Marilyn Musgrave faced a challenge "Colorado typically has kind of enjoyed that ten-
from Democrat Angie Paccione, while the seat sion of divided government, and I think that's
given up by 10-term Republican Rep. Joel He- part of what's causing this momentum to shift
fley was the subject of a fierce battle between our direction," said Beauprez.
Republican Doug Lamborn and Democrat Jay
Fawcett. "The whole landscape we think is important,
and it's not just our race, it's the entire land-
Fawcett received an e-mail death threat Monday scape in Colorado," said Ritter. "We'll watch it
night, the third of the campaign, campaign carefully."
manager Wanda James said. James said the
most recent threat was reported to Colorado Republicans have pointed out Gov. Bill Owens
Springs police. Police were investigating. vetoed nearly 100 bills while he was in office
and many of those bills could be reintroduced if
James also said someone sprayed a skunk odor Democrats take control of the office. They said
in Fawcett's headquarters overnight. The El Paso some of those bills could be anti-business and
County Republican Party said someone tried to anti-family.
clog the plumbing at its Colorado Springs of-
fices.

Republicans are using the specter of Democratic Copyright 2006 by TheDenverChannel.com. The
control to get their voters to the polls with the Associated Press contributed to this report. All
argument that a divided government is better, rights reserved. This material may not be published,
in terms of checks and balances. broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Accessed July 10, 2010