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November 09, 2006 04:33 PM UTC

Denver Election Woes

  • by: Canines

(This is going to get nasty – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Big story over the last couple of days: Denver City Auditor Dennis Gallagher has demanded the resignation of the election officials responsible for Denver’s election night fiasco. Mayor Hickenlooper is on the defensive, as Denver lands on the national news for hosting one of the nation’s most problematic elections.


A barely tested software program is blamed:



62 thoughts on “Denver Election Woes

  1. Get architect Daniel Libeskind out here for another photo-op with the Mayor in front of the new art museum in order to distract attention from serious matters!

    1. On another board, a software friend who’s viewed “Hacking Democracy” and done a little research on this topic answered my question about open source software for electronic voting machines this way:

      There is a lot of debate about whether or not open source is more secure than closed source (or proprietary) program code. This is basically a religious discussion with both sides throwing up irrational arguments.

      The truth is that open source code is good because the more programmers that look at the code, the more likely it is that the problems will be found and therefore fixed. The bad thing about open source code is that there is no control over who looks at the code (it is public by defintion) and therefore, hackers can identify vulnerabilities to exploit (and not fix).

      I am a software engineer. I think like one. I solve problems like one. My suggestions would be a) have several vendors develop designs and prototypes for voting machines (and the entire systems) and then have open hearing where they are reviewed — we do it with new military airplanes, why not votiong machines? b) follow the DoD (department of defense) standards for software system development. These are some of the most stringent standards out there and they insist that there be formal requirements that are mapped to formal speicifications that are mapped to the actual lines of code that are tested by a formal test plan created based on the requirements. And c) take what ever system is developed and turn it over to several groups with the intention of trying to break it. Do real Q&A testing. Do real security testing (maybe take it the Blackhat conference and see if the hackers can break it). Have the security experts (from several of the information assurance and security field) have a go at it. And, this does include making the program source code as well as all of the design documents available to those who are testing the system.

      What do you think?

  2. Here is the response form Karen Morrissey, a candidate for the Election Commission:

    for immediate release
    8 November 2006

    Election 2006 was an inexcusable fiasco

    DENVER ? I hoped never to have to say this since I moved to Denver in 1982: My hometown is the butt of election jokes. The highly publicized long lines were only one effect of the ill-preparedness and unresponsiveness of the Election Commission. Another consequence was the further erosion of people?s belief that their votes matter and that their votes count.

    Today, I call on the Commission to immediately implement the following changes to avoid such disasters in the future:

    1. Perform load-testing for the voter data based system used for the ?e-poll books,? identify the causes of problems, and make the improvements necessary to ensure the city?s system can handle the load acceptably, even if all 350,000 registered voters decide to vote on election day. As a software engineer, I simply cannot believe adequate testing of the current system was done prior to the general election.
    2. Increase the number of ?e-poll books? at each location. Simply do the math: if 55 centers are using 4 poll books each, that?s 220 poll books working at one time. If 100,000 voters vote on election day, each poll book has to average 455 voters during the day. That means each judge has to look up and process each voter in an average of only 38 seconds: impossible.
    3. Locate and activate 15 additional Vote Centers ? before the May, 2007, Municipal election ? mostly located in the areas reporting the longest wait times yesterday.
    4. Increase the support staff at the Election Commission on Election Day. There is no excuse for Vote Centers to run out of provisional ballots and other supplies during the day, especially after multiple calls to the Commission requesting them. Nor is there any excuse for election judges needing assistance to be on the phone on hold for 40 minutes waiting for help.

    I grew up in Chicago. I?m used to jokes about how dirty Chicago elections are; I even tell them myself. But Denver has been my home for over two decades, and I refuse to let Denver become the election laughingstock of the West. We can do better.

  3. That was Karen’s statement. My personal opinion is we give the Commission one, and only one, more chance to make Vote Centers work at the city Municipal election.

    The problems were logistical and technological. The logistical problems boil down to not enough e-poll books. However the technological problem was system wide not having enough computer capability to handle it, more e-poll books actually would have made that part worse.

    So the obvious fix is to improve the computer system AND TEST IT!! If it becomes apparent we cannot getthe system fixed, then do an all-mail election.

    I absoluely hate all-mail ballot elections. We have done them before in low-interest races and they always go badly because so many people move and don’t change their voter registration. These people never get their ballots and are generally not knowledgable enough about the process to fix that. Yes, mail-ballots increase turn-out, but they also increase disenfranchisement far, far more.

    1. If the Election Commission had been performing in an exemplary manner otherwise then yes, I’d say give it another chance.  But, it hasn’t.

      The Sequoia contract alone has produced not just the e-poll book disaster (for $85,000 for a product that Larimer country created for itself for far less using off the shelf software).  It also produced tens of thousands of erroneous ballots that were actually mailed to voters and may have impacted the outcome of the election in cases where the ballots were voted before people were warned about them.  And, it has provided Denver with an absentee vote counting machine that has broken down, bringing vote counting in Denver to a crawl.  Only about 10,000 absentee votes have been counted since the election and according to Stephen Ludwig, there are as many as 30,000 more to be counted.

      Then, there were the ID thefts, the 100 election judge shortage, the miscues about whether Harvard Gulch voting center was open, the failure to get the RTD-N race on the ballot, the absentee ballot screw ups in 2004, and on and on and on.

      The disaster this time around would have been excuseable were it not for the fact that large numbers of people were screaming their lungs out at the Election Commission telling them that a disaster was looming.  And, even now, the IT guy at the Election Commission, in an interview with the Rocky, acts like he’s done nothing wrong.

      The Election Commission’s institutional culture just doesn’t get it.  Heads need to roll.  Promptly.

    2. You speak as if you had some kind of insight or authority or something….one more chance?  NO.  This is the real world, not kindergarten…as I recall…you were pooh poohing the concerns of those of us who KNEW there were going to be problems…Look this is not tea party time…it is TEA PARTY time…throw the ladies out….they are incompetent and a disgrace….

      1. I speak as a person who is one of only a handful of citizens who bother to go election commission metings on a regular basis, and as a person who serves on a citizen’s advisory committee to the Commission. I can also speak from the experiences of having been an election judge for the past 13 years. I also participated in the recent Task Force meetings initiated by Councilwoman (and former Commissioner) Marcia Johnson regarding the structure and performance of the Election Commission.

        The fears I addressed before the elcetion did not happen, and that was with the performance of the electronic voting machines. It was everything else that went wrong. Once voters were able to get to the machines, things went wonderfully. The voters who used the new “Edge” machines usually needed a little more instruction, but that is to be expected anytime there is something new.

        I am as appalled with the rest of events of this election as anyone else. I said I am willing to give the vote centers another chance, not necessarily all of the staff of the Commission. And I am really not happy about sticking with Sequoia as a vendor at this point.

        From comments made in today’s newspaper by the Commission’s IT guy (which I followed up by asking a few questons of my own by phone), I am of the belief this person should be checking the want ads for a dishwashing position. I am not very knowledgable about hardware, but even I was not buying that load of crap.

        Other members of the Commission deserve some form of reprimand as well, but I am not sure it serves the voters to fire them them at this point:
        John Gaydeski, Director: was told 4 lap-tops would not be to handle the crowd by a Task Force of election judges (on which I served). Even if the network/server/whatever had functioned properly, there would have still been lines due to the ability to only process 4 people at a time.

        Wayne Vaden, Commissioner: Likes to give the impression that he is on top of the situation at the Commission because he is the appointed member and is in the viciinity on a daily basis. He is a fairly techologically savvy guy and should have realized the necessity of load-testing the e-poll book before the election, or that it was not being done.

        Susan Rogers & Sandy Adams, Commissioners: They have full legal authority over the elections, but often defer too much to the staff or the (perceived) will of City Council. The Commissioners need some gonads to say this, this and this is what has to happen to pull off this elecion, period. Their primary fault is they don’t exercise the authority they have very well.

        1. Thank you for explaining who you are and from what experience you speak.
          You have participated and you sound knowledgeable. However you are now part of the problem because you are defending the Election Commission. By attacking Gallagher, you have made this political….and is should be legal and technical. The only people immediately accountable are the elected commissioners….and the Hickenlooper appointee, hence the mayor.  Involving citizens is a classic bureacratic technique to create citizen cheerleaders for the bureacracy.  You may be the only  success the Commissioners can claim.  Thank you for your service, but I think your contributions here are counterproductive.

          1. Dan Willis seems to reflect the attitude of the bureacracy, and it’s important for all to see that.

            The politicians have to decide to step in and fix the situation by giving the commission the budget needed to hire a strong IT person and give that person the authority to make technology decisions. Elected and appointed commissioners aren’t qualified to buy technology.

            They seem to screw up every time. There has to be a better way.

          2. I said the Commission should receive reprimand and that they should have been more aware of what was not being done technologically, and should take more authority than they currently do. I don’t consider that defending them.

            I don’t see what would be accomplished by removing them from office RIGHT NOW (not an easy proposal for the elected ones and would require an election itself, not to mention a lot of petitions). Those positions are up for election in May anyway. If I thought they deserved to keep their positions I would not be the campaign manager for Karen Morrissey who seeks to replace one of them and advocates for the other to also be replaced.

            As for the appointed one, that is up to mayor. As far as I am concerned one city clerk is like another and they are mostly the “mayor’s guy” on the Commission. I pointed out that Vaden should have been aware of the technological issues and apparently was not. If the mayor feels that is a firable offense, that is soley up to his discretion.

            Another thing to keep in mind: if a Commissioner resigns, they are replaced by the Mayor. I prefer to keep them accountable to the people, not the Mayor.

    3. If the system had run well, we election judges could have handled it easily.

      Add to the list of people who should be on the chopping block, Anthony Rainey, IT chief for the Election Commission. He is either incompetent or a liar.

      He claims there was no way they could have load-tested the system before the election. Bushwah. Anyone who has ever worked for a software company that developed Internet-distributed software knows he is blowing it out both ends.

      It would have been a simple matter to give 220 (250 to be safe) of the 7100 city employees a laptop in their cubicle and access to the e-pb, and instructions to run the load test. That is an easier way to do what we did at Quark when we were testing Quark Publishing System. If Rainey had done that, the problems with the system would have been immediately apparent.

      More galling, we could have gotten what Larimer County used, for free.

      Rainey says that all new programs have glitches. That is true, but the major problems for users are avoided by thorough beta and alpha testing before release. One of the Sequoia techs working the vote centers told me that they weren’t even done programming the e-pb, let alone testing it.

      So the question is: Does Rainey know what he is doing?  If he does, he was negligent in not performing the load tests and should be gone. If he doesn’t he had no business being there in the first place.

    1. I went to one of the community hearings put on by the Election Commission when they had decided to go to vote centers.

      Attendees we solidly in favor of continuing precinct voting. There was much skepticism about the dependency on an untried computer system.

      Karen Hatchett of the Election Commission dismissed every objection, and made it clear that rather than looking for community input, they were simply using the meetings to annunce what they were going to do, no matter who objected. There were people there from CFVI (A bipartisan voters’ rights group) and other IT and techie types who were itmizing the possible difficulties, and all were dismissed.

      We were told that in Larimer County (and there was a Larico election official present to verify) it increased voter participation by a huge percentage, and that this was a big opportuity to  make things better for voters. We were told about how difficult it is to get enough election judges for all the precincts. We were told this would make early voting better. And, in some instances this was true–Saturday voting was nice, and it was good to be able to go to a central location for early voting.

      But what they didn’t tell us (because they didn’t know it would be difficult to find enough proper centers) is that they would never have enough vote centers. LariCo is much smaller than Denver, but they had more vote centers than Denver. Clearly, denver was heavily depending upon absentee ballots and early voting to avoid backlogs on election day. Not enough people voted early, and that too contributed to the long lines.

      1. LariCo does not have more vote centers than Denver. I believe they have some 30-odd and we had 55. I would like to see us go to 70.

        You also left out the primary reason we went to vote centers: to fulfill the ADD requirements of HAVA. Many of our precinct locations were not up to snuff and the Commission felt it really had no option but to go to vote centers or subject Denver to likely federal charges for non-compliance.

        The fact that it went badly on Tuesday is not disputed, nor is it excusable. But it could have been fine with the vote center model if the IT dept. Commission had done their job correctly. They flat out just failed. Where the question still remains is: why? Did they simply fail to do the pre-election load tests properly or were they denied the funds to conduct such a test? I don’t have that answer (yet!).

        There is a second tech-problem and that was the number of terminals to use for checking in voters. Each location only had 4 and that was not adequate. The Commission had been told in August by an Election Judge’s Task Force (on which I served) that 4 would not be adequate, but we received no more.

        1. The idea that anyone can vote at any location is a good one.

          But, a voter registration printout from the eve of the election copied at Kinkos, and a vat of purple ink for people to dip their fingers in would have done a better job than what the election commission did.

          1. I’m curious if any other voting-center style jurisdictions in America do use something like that to prevent multiple votes. Since the voter rolls will be compared after the election (and multiple voters investigated, perhaps prosecuted), it would seem as good as all the failed safeguards.

  4. Everyone in any decision-making capacity in City government in Denver knew that this was a disaster waiting/going to happen.  Chris Romer was right–they were warned repeatedly, and that was before the primary, and after the primary the warnings were renewed.  They had time for action, but didn’t act.  Listen, and I’m a huge Hick fan, but he should have worked with Council to insist that something get done when Council was working on changes to the Election Commission, etc.  They were warned, all of them, repeatedly (did I say that already?).

    1. The way Denver’s charter is written it is very clear. The Mayor and the City Council have no control over the Election Commission except to approve its budget and even that is mandated that it be done.

      The blame for all failures, and responsibility for all improvments, rests solely with the Election Commission

  5. He warned about all of this as early as last June and no one would listen.

    The Rocky noted that Gallagher said in a letter to the Mayor in June regarding the election commission’s lack of planning for the elections: “There is a tsunami coming and we are not prepared.”

    Every issue Gallagher raised in June was a problem on election day.

    1. Karen Hatchett was on the Election Comission when the hearings were held about the vote centers.

      We questioned the reliance on software not fully develped and tested. We questioned everything, and were treated like Chicken Littles. Karen hatchett is gone, and those who are left are dealing with her bad decisions.

      By the way, she was also on hand at the House hearings regarding electronic voting. She was objecting to requiring voter verified paper receipts, and their use in recounts. They prevailed, despite the overwhelming testimony by techies and voter rights organizations,

    1. I seem to remember you saying it was because Denver voters are stupid and can’t read:

      Okay, but
      why are all you (D)s conspiring to surpress the vote in Denver?  I really can’t figure out what your motivation is for doing that.  My daughter, who is a confirmed tree-hugger, reported seeing delays because people couldn’t seem to figure out how to work the little wheel.  Maybe they should have translated the arrows into Spanish.

      “No man ever steps into the same river twice…” – Heraclitus
      by: Xenophon @ Tue Nov 07, 2006 at 13:28:01 PM MST

      1. who fought against the switch from percinct voting to vote centers. It was largely Democrats who fought the people who did not want verifiable voting.

        I don’t know what “little wheel” you are talking about. Maybe it’s the one on the little treadmill that the keeper charged with the responsibility of whipping the hamster that kept the electricity flowing to the server is attached to.

        The only delays at our vote center were caused by the faulty electronic poll book software.

      2. No Karl Rove needed;
        We have the Republican AG and Secretary of State colluding to ensure that today’s chaos in Denver means fewer people get to vote.  This is Gigi Dennis’ job.

        I hope you didn’t make the mistake of voting for Coffman.  We need to change this.
        by: OscarTheCouch @ Tue Nov 07, 2006 at 15:13:21 PM MST
        [ Parent | Reply ]

  6. He issues press releases all the time about stuff that’s none of his business, with hyperbole aplenty. Reminds me of a mini-Tancredo.

    Nobody remembers the press releases he issues that prove to be wildly inflated overstatements.

    Yes, there are serious problems with the Denver Election Commission. But Gallagher’s just a blowhard looking for a cheap headline. This time he got lucky.

      1. And you are whom, mr. dan willis?  Gallagher is the Auditor, just doing his job. Would that someone else in city government was as committed and as independent. I still don’t understand who you are.  And we should listen to your opinion, because?

        1. OK, can we all get it out of our systems and declare what a (1) wonderful hero of the everyman or (2) calculating politico just like the rest of them that Dennis Gallagher is? Let’s focus on the problem at hand: how to ensure that the next election isn’t such a cluster and disgrace.

          I love the post defending Gallagher and saying “let’s not make this political; it should be technical and legal.” The notion that Gallagher isn’t “political” is somewhat naive, to say the least. He is a politician in his blood, marrow and core.

          Why all the attention on Gallagher? He’s the auditor who doesn’t like auditing. http://www.denverpos

          “Denver City Auditor Dennis Gallagher is taking a beating in the press, with stories in both the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News over the weekend highlighting inproprieties, inefficiencies, and inconsistencies in his work record. Gallagher has been seriously considering running for state treasurer in 2006, but unless he can get these negative stories under control he’ll have a hard time even holding on to his auditor’s job when he is up for re-election in 2007.” http://coloradopolit

          Oh no, Gallagher’s not “political.” That’s why he issues press releases using terms like “tsunami.” (Somewhat offensive, by the way. Why stop there? What about “holocaust”?)

          There are all kinds of stories in the press over the past several years about how Gallagher’s gotten into a row with various Denver folks about issues that really aren’t in his bailiwick.

          Here’s the point: Yes, there are SERIOUS problems with the Denver Election Commission and voting in Denver. Can you say “duh”! But all this focus on Gallagher as some sort of prescient hero is nonsense.

          (I don’t live in Denver, I’m not a politician, I’m DEFINITELY not involved in the election commission or elections in any way, shape or form. I have no “dog to hunt” other than that as a matter of principle I can’t stand politicians like Tancredo who issue press releases looking for cheap headlines but who don’t ACCOMPLISH anything.)

          1. Okay. if you are going to criticize Gallagher, then you should know what his job is.  Denver has problems enough without non-residents jumping in on a pile on.  The Auditor is an elected official and tension between the Auditor and the Mayor is built into the City Charter.  The Auditor’s job  includes approving contracts and doing  performance audits.  He does not have authority to implement reforms.  He has issued numerous reports and alerts over the last six months or so about the problems at the Denver Election Commission.  No effective remedies were undertaken either by the Mayor or the elected representatives of the Election Commission.  He was right and should say so.  To attack him personally politicalizes the whole mess.

            Now, Gallagher is going to push for a change to the CityCharter to get rid of theElection Commissioners.  Dan Willis  announced that he is the campaign manager for a candidate for the Denver Election Commission.  If the Commission is eliminated, then, I presume, his candidate has no place to go.

            I am beginning to believe that we need a federal investigation to ensure that we are not dealing with something more than just gross incompetence.

            1. Dwyer is correct.  Gallagher did repeatedly warn of problems at the election commission.  He specifically raised warning about the failure to have the epoll book in place and tested.  He questioned when the commission would do a mock election to run a full blown shakedown test of all the new software and systems.  the commission said they didn’t need to do that, that the primary would be the test.

              Well the primary had problems and there were only 12,000 people voting primary election day.

              There is a lot of finger pointing going on between the mayor and the commission and council.  but the bottom line is that Gallagher was doing a performance audit of the commission and in the process discovered the problems and tried to get those responsible to fix the probems before the tsunami struck.  I think given what we saw on Tuesday, that choice of word was very appropriate.

            2. I may live outside Denver but that doesn’t disqualify me from giving my opinion – hardly “piling on” – about the supposedly “non-political” Dennis Gallagher.

              His performance audits would have a lot more credibility and weight if he wasn’t so brazenly political about what he does, and why.

              1. “Nobody remembers the press releases he issues that prove to be wildly inflated overstatements.”

                You state that, but I would be interested in you citing which ones.

                not trying to be argumentative, but I would like to know which ones you are referring to.

                I don’t think Gallagher is wrong in this instance, nor am I aware of any other instances in which he has been wrong so I would be interested in learnng which ones you think he may have made wildly inflated overstatements.  When has he been wrong in issues he has raised in Denver?

          2.   I’m not a big fan of the pompous, preachy old wind bag, but on predicting the disaster that was at the voting centers last Tuesday, Dennis Gallagher was right on the money.
              On a not-entirely-unrelated point, has Gallagher formed his “exploratory committee” to determine whether he should challenge Hick?

  7. 1.  HAVA is yet another Republican created effort to do exactly the opposite of what it claims. the taxpayer is funding the purchase of gabillions of $$$ of Diebold and S&S, Republican run companies.  They, who hate government entitlements, Medicaid, etc. decided that the handicapped would suddenly serve a good political purpose. 

    Those who have accessibility issues have always had the right to vote, and could always vote by mail (at least in recent history.)  Yes, they might have to sit with a friend or spouse and not have a totally secret ballot, but that is part of the territory.  We, society at large, cannot make these individuals 100% whole.  But they were a good scapegoat to make electronic machines mandatory.

    2.  Dailykos has a good overview why mail ballots make so much sense.  http://www.dailykos….  And interestingly, the very people who HAVA insisted be given the right to vote in person now vote by mail in Oregon!  No problemo.  I, too, lament the imminent demise of the local polling  place (and especially the satisfaction of the old lever and curtain ka-thump as your vote registered on those ancient things) but time moves on.

    Whatever issues there are with mail ballots such as signature checks can be reasonably addressed.  Instead of needing a zillion election judges and pollwatchers, the counties could just hire extra folks to handle the mail ballots and everything would be centralized for easy observation.  The machine counting could start as they start coming back, and only those few left that come in at 7PM need to be added.  By 7:05, perhaps, all are counted and the job is done.

    No need to buy new machines frequently, anything to be hacked is under the eagle eye at one place, it’s cheaper, etc. etc.  For individuals who can’t figure out that when they move they need to reregister – just like now – they could do a provisional ballot at the courthouse.

    1. I’m not sure I agree with the sentiment that electronic voting machines are evil.  I do agree that they were pushed along too fast and with too few parties giving serious input, and with some incompetent management; but I’m not sure that’s entirely avoidable, in the political sphere or elsewhere.  They will now be improved.  There are definite advantages to going in this direction.

      I would absolutely hate an all-mail election.  There really is a role in election day to bringing together the American people around a democratic government

      A few major adjustments would make perfect sense.

      First of all, the complete design and source code for voting machines needs to be made public domain.  Companies who claim this information is their intellectual property should be politely told that if they aren’t willing to sell their intellectual property to the American people as part of the package, we will find new vendors.  What they are saying now, all technical obfuscation aside, is that I have the right to push on the little touch screen, but I don’t necessarily have the right to know what happens as a result.  I don’t consider that a right to vote.  That’s only a right to pretend to vote.

      Second, there needs to be more redundancy in the process.  Ken Gordon’s bill, as I understand it, already requires a voter-verified paper record of votes.  Now what we need is to have a sampling of machines manually checked — electronic against paper records — automatically as part of each election.  The sampling should be partly random, but also weighted toward locations where results differ greatly from expectations due to various mathematical models such as party registration, past election results, and polling (exit or otherwise).

      Third, there needs to be far greater investment in the human processes of voting.  Elections should be run by knowledgable professionals who are paid accordingly, from the top to the bottom.  It should be inexcusable that someone should serve as an election judge with only a training session.  Qualifications should include several days of training, plus satisfactory performance in multiple Saturday mock elections where the entire process is performed from beginning to end.  Election judges should pass tests on relevant law and policies from the secretary of state or county clerk, and then tests on running the equipment provided by the equipment manufacturer and approved by the government.  Election day should be considered a national holiday so that EVERYONE is available to serve, and the pay for election judges should be tripled, and then adjusted from there for experience and past performance.

      1. Some counties reportedly require judges to take quite a bit of training, and if you pay for each training day, judges will take the training and expedite voting.

        Good post.

      2. Right on target.  Well said. Sequoia codes and the software are all proprietary.
        I don’t know if this could have impacted the ability of the IT Director to get help from outside sources (ie the city) who were not authorized by SEQUOIA to have access to the codes.

      3. I just wanted to add some information, which may be useful:

        The voting machines codes are kept proprietary for security reasonsons. The stated reason has been if they were in the public domain, it would be far easier for someone with computer knowledge to hack the machines and harder for such hacking to be detected. I’m not knowleedgable enough on this topic to know if that is accurate or not, so I will leave it to those who are. I’m just presenting what Sequoia (and all the vendors) are saying.

        Gordon’s bill does indeed provide for the auditing you proposed of checking paper against electronic results. This is done by a randomly computer-generated list handed down from the Sec. of State’s office and covers 1% of the election (not enough in my opinion). It selects race X on machine Y to check so that the maximun number of machines are being looked at.

        I am with you 100% that judge training is abysmal (at least in Denver). I am heading in the direction of believing temp agencies should be used to hire the judges for Early Voting and to hire the Supervisor Judges for election day. This way the judges are fairly well vetted in terms of their abilities before they have even have contact with the Commission. Furthermore, it will be easier to get quality people to be judges for Early Voting. It is difficult under the current system to find enough good judges who are able to take 1-2 weeks out of their life to do that.

        1. I just reread the first post for “Another Skeptic.”  He/She outlines  a rational process for awarding contracts and dealing with security issues.  I am now convinced we need federal oversight. There are too many problems, interlocking and historical.  Peter Blakes’ crack in the RMN, today, that the voting will continue until the Mayor’s preschool tax passes, is an excellent example of public disregard for the whole Denver process.

        2. Keeping code and hardware design secret for security reasons is not a reasonable course of action.  With the field, it goes by the moniker “security by obscurity”, and it’s considered one of the first signs that someone designing a security system doesn’t know what they’re doing.  (More specifically, it’s useful only for situations in which there’s no substantial motivation for someone to try to break the security; it deters idle curiosity just fine.)

          All security involves secret information of some kind, but well-designed security systems ensure that the secret information is relatively random and easily changed.  Any competent software developer can guess at a large part of how a voting system works; and if someone guesses correctly, the information remains valid for far too long.  Now, undoubtedly, these systems also contain better security protections; then the question is whether the benefit of obscurity is greater or less than the benefit of more knowledgable individuals examining the code.  I’d guess it would the consensus of security experts (at least, those not hired by Diebold or Sequoia) that more visibility is better.

          Empirically, the fact that the Princeton CS department was recently able to compromise security of a voting system in a drastic way without having access to the code proves the point.  Obviously, there are problems in the underlying (real) security in at least that machine; and the fake security by obscurity layer is preventing it from being detected.

          That said, if security of the machines is really as weak as it appears, then there is a transition problem.  The code to currently existing machines should probably not be revealed, since we’re unsure what would happen if there are still gaping security holes as of the next election.  Instead, new machines and software should be developed with open and transparent processes.

  8. > For election commissioners Sandy Adams and Susan Rogers, Gallagher was more delicate, saying, “If it were me, I would be so humiliated by what happened that I would certainly consider resigning immediately.”

    Yes, there was a failure.

    Let’s take the time to figure out what exactly happened.  I’ve heard rumors of servers down, bad staff, and SQUIRRELS.

    Slow it down.  The next election is a year from now.  We can take a week or so to put together a plan.  We weren’t bombed by jets, we had a bad election in Denver.

    Breathe. 🙂

    1. And for Sandy and Susie, this is not their first rodeo….the problems at the Election Commission are long standing. 

      PS. Dennis Gallaher would never say: ” If it were me..”

    2. had to go through the gut-wrenching experience of watching voters give up and abandon their right to vote, or to see elderly people having difficulty standing in line so long, or see the alarm on people’s faces when you couldn’t find them in the book because it was having problems, or force people to go to voting on the wrong provisional ballot for their distirct because the Elelction Commission provided us with the wrong ones–or worse, ran out of provisionals because the system would not let us pass them through to the machines.

      People are understandably and justifiably outraged by these events that could have and should have been foreseen. The Election Commission had their blinders on from the beginning, and would not consider alternatives.

      At the meeting about votecenters in Five Points, we urged, begged, that they continue precinct voting for just one more election cycle, and test the system in 55 of the precinct locations, where they could have the backup of the paper poll books, so no one’s right to vote would be compromised by unforeseen difficulties. Karen Hatchett laughed in our faces at such a proposal.

      However, she never stuck around to take the blame for what was largely her decision.

  9. Michael Bennett would not have tolerated this.
    Vaden would have been out the door long ago if Bennett were around. Kelly Brough is in over her head and unable to make decisions. The Mayor is afraid to alienate anyone so he allows the incompetence at the DEC to continue.
    In 2008 it will be even worse.

    1. Hickenlooper is doing the right thing, move fast, set up a commission.  You don’t want to fire everyone at the DEC immediately because some of the people know what is wrong and can help fix things.

      He has also said that if he can’t correct this promptly, “the honeymoon is over.”  And that’s from a position that has very little oversight or control on the DEC.

      1. PLEASE! The Hick is reacting in typical fashion, point the finger, explain that it’s “Not my job, man,” and appoint a commission. If y’all are still honeymooning with this guy, then Gawd Bless your “…stay the course…” mentality. Reality check is in order.

  10. I’ve written software (and managed developers) for over 25 years. Putting a mission critical system like this in to use when it’s still in beta is inexcusable.

    The election commission IT manager should be fired immediately for being totally incompetent along with the rest of the inept hacks they have running the commission.

    This wasn’t unforseen for anyone with a brain – this was totally predictible.

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