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Any candidate or issue that is to appear on a ballot must be certified by the appropriate election office. To become certified, candidates must file paperwork with the County Clerk and Recorder or the Secretary of State, depending on the office that is being sought. Typical paperwork that is required includes a petition that must be signed by a certain number of eligible voters to qualify the candidate for participation in the election. Similarly, petitions may be circulated in order to place special issues on the ballot.
All signatures submitted on petitions for candidates or issues must be verified against the Statewide Colorado Voter Registration Database (SCORE). If enough signatures are verified to qualify the candidate or issue for an election, the petition is deemed “sufficient” and the candidate/issue is referred to the ballot.
During this phase of election preparation, critical election information is input into various software programs.
First, the specifics of the election, including the offices up for election, the candidates for those offices, the office boundaries, and eligible electors are programmed into the SCORE system. This system is used by all Colorado counties to maintain a single list of Colorado’s registered voters as well as to assist in administering elections in Colorado.
The Denver Elections Division uploads the information contained in SCORE into software called EED (Election Event Designer). The Denver Elections Division then uses EED to lay out the graphic design of the ballot.
Third, a file is exported from EED and imported into a ballot tallying software program called ICC, or Image Cast Central. This program is used to collect the election results from each individual counting machine and produce a single cumulative tally.
The content of the ballot is dictated by federal, state, and local laws. These laws dictate which races will appear on the ballot and the order in which those races will appear. Federal laws also mandate that in the City and County of Denver, all ballots must be produced in both English and Spanish.
Ballot design is the layout of the ballot content and is dependent upon the judgment of the local election office running the election. In preparation of the November 2008 General Election, the Denver Elections Division performed a complete overhaul of Denver’s ballot design using best practices established at the national level by experts in ballot readability. The new design included: 1) a new, more readable masthead, 2) numbered instructions provided in a larger font and accompanied by a demonstrative picture of how to fill out the ballot, 3) a change from one to three columns in the body of the ballot, 4) the use of shading to separate categories of races, and 5) a change in the location of candidate names.
These changes increased clarity, simplicity, and white space in the design which enhanced readability for the voter. The new design was highly effective and reduced incidents of voter error by approximately 50 percent.
In addition to the look of a ballot, proper ballot design also involves accurate data entry and proofing of the content of the ballot. This process is highly complex because it involves data entry of multiple candidates and races on a large number of ballot faces.
Because there are 346 precincts in the City and County of Denver, there are 346 different ballot faces for a general election. For primary elections, each party has a different ballot face in each precinct. Thus, any precinct may have up to four ballot faces and the county as whole may have as many as 1,029 ballot faces. Each of these ballot faces must be accurately proofed before ballot production can begin.6
In addition to the design of paper ballots, electronic ballots must also be designed, produced, and proofed to be used on electronic voting machines. And finally, electronic voting machines also contain audio ballots that must be recorded onto the machines.
Prior to and after every election, the equipment used to record, tabulate, and report votes must be tested according to state laws and regulations. Three types of voting system tests must be performed: a Hardware Diagnostic Test, a Logic and Accuracy Test, and a Post-Election Audit Test.
The Hardware Diagnostic test is performed to verify that mechanical components of each electronic voting device are working correctly. After the successful completion of the test for each device, the devices are sealed. Documentation of the sealed information and all testing records for each device are maintained by the Denver Elections Division.
The Logic and Accuracy Test is a step by step documented review of the Elections Division’s ability to produce accurate results on voter choices for the candidates and ballot issues in an election. It is performed by Elections Division staff and an appointed testing board, consisting of at least one representative from each major political party, and it is open to the public and the media. In preparation for the Logic and Accuracy Test, the Elections Division staff prepares a test deck of ballots sufficient in number so that it includes every ballot style and allows for election staff to vote a position for every candidate on every race including write-in candidates, overvotes, and undervotes for each race. This test deck is run on the Elections Divisions high speed ballot scanners and the results are compared to a hand tally of those same ballots.
The official Logic and Accuracy Test begins when the Testing Board is provided with blank ballots identical to those that are used in the election. The members of the Testing Board secretly cast votes on both paper ballots and ballot marking devices. The ballots are then tallied by hand by a ballot tabulation team. Once tabulated, the ballots are run through high speed ballot scanners. Then the results from the scanners are compared to the results of the hand tally. Any discrepancies are reported, addressed, and reconciled. As a last step, the Test Board signs a Public Logic and Accuracy Testing Certification document verifying that all required testing was completed in a satisfactory manner.
After Election Day, the Post-Election Audit takes place when the Secretary of State randomly selects which election machinery is to be audited and then notifies the Denver Elections Division of their choice. The machinery selected includes five percent of the ballot marking devices and at least one of the high speed ballot scanners.
During the post-election audit, election officials randomly select five percent but not more than five hundred actual ballots that were tabulated on the selected ballot scanner during the election. A report is then generated and the ballots are hand-tallied and compared to the report.
The Post-Election Audit Testing is observed by at least two members of the Canvass Board. In the event any discrepancies are discovered during the testing, the members of the Canvass Board verify the results as many times as necessary and check for possible voter error, such as stray marks, to clear up the discrepancies. Once the testing is complete, the Denver Elections Division will submit a report to the Secretary of State that includes the results of the audit, including the specific machines tested and their serial numbers.
Ballot production includes both the printing of paper ballots and the insertion of those ballots into mail ballot packets. Ballot printers print ballots using strict requirements from the Elections Division such as the proper paper weight as well as the registration of the ballot image on the paper. With such strict requirements, only certain certified printers are able to print ballots in Denver.
Once the ballots are printed, they are inserted into a generic ballot packet and then an individual voter’s name and barcode are sprayed onto the outside envelope. This process is extremely complex and requires the precise use of computer generated databases and expensive insertion machinery because every voter must be sent a ballot that corresponds to their correct precinct and ballot face.
In the spring of 2009, the Denver Elections Division solicited proposals from certified ballot printers from around the country in an attempt to save taxpayer dollars on printing costs. A total of six companies responded with competing bids and ProVote Solutions was awarded the contract. The new contract has benefited Denver’s citizens by saving thousands of dollars in printing costs and by requiring that Denver’s ballots be printed locally. In addition to benefiting Denver’s taxpayers, the local printing requirement benefits the Elections Division because election officials can now directly supervise the printing and assembly of mail ballot packets on a more regular basis without having to travel out of state.
Previously in Denver, once ballots were printed and delivered to the Post Office the status of those ballots were unknown to election officials and to voters. Now, the Denver Elections Division utilizes Ballot TRACE (Ballot Tracking, Reporting, and Communications Engine). Ballot TRACE allows Denver election officials and Denver voters to track mail ballots from the Denver Elections Division’s ballot printer to the Denver bulk mail facility, to a local postal carrier, and back again through the postal system to the Denver Elections Division. Election officials receive daily reports about the status of all mail ballots while voters can choose to receive ballot tracking messages by email or by text message about the status of their individual ballot. Consequently, the Elections Division encourages voters to sign up for this optional service before ballots are delivered to the United States Postal Service.
The Denver Elections Division sends ballots to voters through the United States Postal Service. In mail ballot elections, ballots are sent between 22 and 18 days before Election Day and are automatically sent to all voters designated by Colorado election law as "active" voters.
The mailing process begins at the printer where the ballots are packaged in trays and on pallets. These packages are then weighed by U.S.P.S. representatives on location at the printer. The ballots are then transferred in secured trucks to the General Mail Facility in Denver. Once the ballot shipment arrives at the General Mail Facility, the postal inspector and representatives from the Denver Elections Division are present to meet the shipment and perform an inspection to ensure the correct quantity has arrived. Once the inspection is complete, the mail ballots are then scanned into the Post Office mail tracking system and sorted into postal routes for delivery to the Denver voters.
After Denver’s ballots are delivered to the General Mail Facility in Denver, the ballots are processed and delivered to individual postal carriers. The postal carriers then deliver the ballots to the voters. If you have had a recent address change, please visit www.govotecolorado.com to look up your address on file and make sure it is current. The deadline to make changes to your voter record and have a ballot delivered via mail is 8 days before Election Day. After that a voter may visit any Voter Service and Polling Center to vote in person or obtain a mail ballot.
Voted ballots may be returned by voters through the United States Postal Service or any other delivery service a voter might choose. To return a voted ballot by mail, the voter must affix the correct amount of postage. However, the Denver Elections Division will not refuse ballots that do not have the proper postage affixed.
Once the Post Office receives a voted ballot, it is scanned into the Post Office’s mail tracking system and then delivered in bulk to the Denver Elections Division on a daily basis.
Alternatively, a voter may return a voted ballot by dropping it off in person or having another person deliver it for them to any ballot drop-off location or Voter Service and Polling Center (VSPC). Colorado law restricts any one voter from dropping off more than 10 ballots in any election.
All VSPCs have drive-up ballot drop-offs provided outside of the site. Voting site locations can be found by visiting www.DenverVotes.org. The Denver Elections Division will have 24 secure 24-hour ballot drop-off boxes throughout the city which will available to voters during the election period through 7 p.m. on Election Day.
Additional services available at VSPCs include ballot replacement for lost or spoiled ballots, emergency registration, party affiliation for unaffiliated voters in a Primary Election, and ADA compliant voting machines.
All voted ballots must be in the possession of the Denver Elections Division by 7 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.
Voter Service and Polling Centers (“VSPCs”) are opened 8-15 days prior to Election Day depending on the type of election. .
Services provided at VSPCs include:
Voted ballots are received at the Elections Division in the Ballot Receiving Room. Mail ballots are delivered from the Post Office and by Elections Division staff from Voter Service and Polling Centers located throughout the City. All activities in this room can be witnessed by the public through a viewing window that opens to a public space.
For security, the Ballot Receiving Room is card keyed and has cameras on it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, every election worker in this room must wear a navy blue vest, an identification badge, and a party affiliation button.
In this room, ballot boxes and mail trays are weighed and logged into the Elections Division’s Ballot Tracking System so that the Division is able to measure exactly where and when voters have delivered their ballots. Ballots are then logged into the Elections Division’s Ballot Tracking System. From here, the ballots are transferred by a ballot security team to the Ballot Verification Room.
Ballots from the Ballot Receiving Room are delivered to the Ballot Verification Room by a ballot security team. All activities in this room can be witnessed by the public through a viewing window that opens to a public space. For security, the Ballot Verification Room is card keyed and has cameras on it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, every election worker in this room must wear a royal blue vest, an identification badge, and a party affiliation button. Workers in this room are also trained by a Certified Document Examiner.
Ballots are run through the Bell and Howell Elevate Criterion which date and time stamps the ballot, removes the secrecy tab with a laser, compares the barcode on the envelope to data from State of Colorado’s SCORE voter registration database, and captures the signature image of all eligible voters’ signatures. Ballots returned from other counties, or voters who are ineligible to participate, are sorted and processed by a bipartisan team. Voters who are eligible have their signatures reviewed by bipartisan election judges. If the signature matches, the ballot is accepted and the voter’s SCORE record is updated to show that a ballot was verified. If the signature does not match, a bipartisan team of two election workers compare signatures. The ballots are run through the Bell and Howell Elevate Criterion once more and sorted by accepted ballots and rejected ballots. Accepted ballots are sent to the Ballot Preparation Room and voters with rejected ballots due to non-matching or missing signatures are sent a letter asking them to submit a Signature Affidavit Form. The voter must also submit a copy of an approved identification with the Signature Affidavit Form.
Ballots from the Ballot Verification Room are delivered to the Ballot Preparation Room by a bipartisan ballot security team. All activities in this room can be witnessed by the public through a viewing window that opens to a public space. For security, the Ballot Preparation Room is card keyed and has cameras on it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, every election worker in this room must wear a green vest, an identification badge, and a party affiliation button.
In this room, batches of ballots are logged into the Elections Division’s Ballot Tracking System. Mail ballot envelopes are then sliced open with an Opex high speed envelope opener/extractor desk to remove the ballot inside the secrecy sleeve and then a bipartisan team of two people work together to:
It should be noted that a voter’s privacy is always maintained because one member of the team separates the secrecy sleeve from the ballot envelope (with the voter’s name on it) and the second member of the team removes the ballot from the secrecy sleeve. The empty envelopes and tabs are placed in storage boxes to be stored in vault storage for 25 months and the ballots are transferred by a ballot security team to the Ballot Counting Room.
Ballots from the Ballot Preparation Room are delivered to the Ballot Counting Room by a ballot security team. All activities in this room can be witnessed by the public through a viewing window that opens to a public space. For security, the Ballot Counting Room is card keyed and has cameras on it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, every election worker in this room must wear a red vest, an identification badge, and a party affiliation button.
In this room, election judges receive ballot transfer cases and log them into the Elections Division’s Ballot Tracking System. A unique number will be imprinted onto every ballot card to determine the number of ballots in each batch, then an election judge processes the ballots through high speed ballot scanners. The scanners read the marks on the ballots indicating a voter’s choice for candidates and issues. The scanners do not tabulate the results at this time, they simply read the scans and pass the results to a tabulation computer. Ballots that are successfully scanned are sealed in a ballot transfer case and logged into the Elections Division’s Ballot Tracking System and then they are sent to the Ballot Storage Room and they will be stored for 25 months and then destroyed.
In the rare instance that a scanner cannot read a ballot, a bipartisan ballot resolution team examines the ballot and sends the appropriate ballots to the Ballot Duplication Team to be duplicated. A bipartisan duplication team then examines the damaged ballot to determine the voter’s intent and then correctly makes a duplicate by marking a blank ballot. The duplication teams keep a journal with important information about each ballot that is duplicated. All original and duplicated ballots are numbered with the same number so that they can be identified at a later time if necessary. The duplicated ballots are returned to the Ballot Counting Room to be counted. The damaged ballots are sealed in a ballot transfer case and sent to the Ballot Storage Room where they will be stored for 25 months and then destroyed.
If a ballot has improper marks, over/under votes, or the voter intent is not clear then the ballot is sent electronically to an Adjudication Team. The Adjudication Team is a bipartisan team of two election judges that review the ballot and determine voter intent based on a Voter Intent Guide provided by the Secretary of State. The Adjudication Team marks the ballot digitally and a log of their decisions is attached to the ballot.
Ballot tabulation takes place on a ballot tabulation computer that is located in the Ballot Counting Room. All activities in this room can be witnessed by the public through a viewing window that opens to a public space. For security, this room is card keyed and has cameras on it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Tabulation of the ballots is accomplished by collecting the scanned vote results from twelve high speed ballot scanners and the paper ballots from ballot marking devices. The results from the scanning machines are sent to the ballot tabulation computer through an isolated secure network that has no ties to any other network or the internet.
The tabulation computer collects and compiles all results using RTR, or Results Tally Reporting. From this system, the results are printed and also downloaded to a USB memory stick so that they can be uploaded to the Elections Division’s website.
On Election Night, unofficial election results are posted at the Elections Division and on its website ( www.denvervotes.org). Results are posted beginning at 7 p.m. and are updated every one and a half hours until all counting is completed. These unofficial election results are also provided to local news organizations and the Associated Press.
After Election Day, various post-election activities occur prior to the official canvass of election and certification of results. These activities include: processing provisional ballots, reconciling voter credit from forms used at the Voter Service and Polling Centers, sending and receiving signature discrepancy letters, sending and receiving identification letters, processing voters who come into the office to sign their unsigned ballots, processing ballots that are received within eight days of the election from overseas electors, and processing any late ballots that are received in by the Division after 7 p.m. on election night.
First, Elections Division staff collects all forms that were used at the voting sites and provisional ballot envelopes. Each form is verified and scanned into the corresponding voter record. In addition, Elections Division staff verifies that voter credit was issued to each voter correctly. Finally, bipartisan teams process and review each provisional ballot using a detailed checklist and process to determine the voter’s eligibility. All provisional ballots must by verified and counted within 10 days after the election, and 14 days after a General Election.
Another post-election process includes processing no signature letters, signature discrepancy letters, and identification requirement letters. During the signature verification process as required by state law, a voter’s signature on the official return envelopes is compared to the signature on file in the statewide voter registration system. If a voter did not sign the official return envelope, a letter is sent requesting that the voter come into the Elections Division to sign their ballot within eight days after the election. If a voter comes in to sign their ballot, the ballot will be counted and included in the official election results. In addition, during the signature verification process, if a voter’s signature is present on the envelope but does not match the signature on file, a letter is sent requesting that the voter complete the Signature Affidavit Form and return it to the Elections Division. The voter must also provide a copy of an approved form of identification. Voters have eight days to return this form to the Elections Division to ensure that their ballot is counted and included in the official results.
Lastly, some voters who did not satisfy the identification requirements to register to vote may be required to provide identification with their mail ballot packet. If a voter did not provide a copy of their identification with their mail ballot, they have eight days after the election to do so.
The final step in the post-election process is to process all ballots from absent overseas electors that are returned to the Elections Division after 7 p.m. on election night. Under state law, these ballots must be received and processed within eight days following the election. After these ballots are verified, they are counted and included in the official election results. Secondly, some mail ballots are received from regular voters at the Elections Division after 7 p.m. on election night. These ballots are processed by Elections Division staff and marked as "Rejected-Received after 7 p.m. on Election Day" and are not counted.
A risk-limiting audit uses statistical analysis to allow election officials to review only a few of all ballots cast in an election to double-check outcomes. Risk-limiting audits are now required for all Colorado elections. These audits use a random number seed and a computer algorithm to select specific random ballots to check against tabulation software results. The benefit of a risk limiting audit is that only a tiny fraction of ballots must be checked to ensure strong statistical confidence in election outcomes - so only a tiny fraction of work and time compared to traditional methods of a full hand recount of ballots.
For statewide coordinated and federal elections, the Secretary of State will determine the races used to determine the risk limit. In a public meeting, randomly selected observers will roll 20 different ten-sided dice to create a random seed used to designate which ballot cards will be audited.
Once a list of required ballots is determined, Elections Division staff gets to work. The previously saved image file of each selected ballot is printed on goldenrod sheets to act as placeholders in the batches. Officials re-open the sealed ballot transfer cases, find the appropriate ballot batch, and double check the selected ballot against the printed image. If the imprinted number matches, officials know they have properly tracked the correct ballot. The goldenrod ballot image is put in the spot of the original ballot to make the return process faster and provide a second check to ensure the right ballot goes back in the correct spot. As the ballots for the audit are pulled, the Audit Board begins the process of the actual audit.
The canvass of an election is the process by which the unofficial results of an election are thoroughly examined and then certified. The canvass is conducted by the Denver Canvass Board. This board consists of one or more appointees from the two major political parties and the Denver Clerk & Recorder or designee which is normally the Director of Elections. The Canvass Board reconciles the ballots cast in an election to confirm that the number of ballots counted in that election does not exceed the number of ballots cast in that election. The board also reconciles the ballots cast in each precinct to confirm that the number of ballots cast does not exceed the number of registered electors in the precinct.
In doing its job, the Canvass Board usually inspects documents that have been produced by the Elections Division and presented to the Canvass Board during a meeting conducted approximately two weeks after the election. However, the Canvass Board can examine any election documents it desires and may be present to inspect any pre- or post-election activities.
No later than the thirteenth day after a primary election and no later than the seventeenth day after any other election coordinated by the county Clerk and Recorder, the Canvass Board completes its duties by certifying the abstract of votes cast in the election and by transmitting the certification of election results to the Secretary of State, the City and County of Denver, and/or any other political subdivisions involved in the election.
If a recount is held and the vote result changes, the Canvass Board will prepare and certify an amended official abstract of votes cast. If the vote result does not change after the recount, the Canvass Board will include a statement to that effect in the official abstract of votes cast.