Amend or Oppose CO SB21-188

Dear Member of the House State, Civic, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and Speaker Garnett and Governor Polis (in respect to a committee hearing for April 29 at the Colorado House State, Civics, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee)

S.1 the For the People Act has a Paper Ballot Requirement that will feel quite familiar and comfortable in Colorado at least until the latest Colorado election bill becomes law. SB-188 actually fights against the paper ballot requirement of S.1 by widening the use of electronic return that can’t produce a verified paper ballot to tabulate and audit. I recommend you do not pass SB21-188 out of your committee without major reconsideration. SB-188 is up for public comment and committee action upon adjournment Thursday April 29.

Colorado is already much respected nationwide for its verified paper ballot voted at home in the hands of the voter. SB-188 allows instead intangible electronic images of ballots to traverse the internet on the way to become unverified paper to be tabulated.  Perhaps later these paper imposters printed far from the voters eyes and accessible verification devices might be sampled for audit with little or no reason for confidence that the voter knows what is on the paper that represents their vote. It is at best poignant that the bill is attempting to add low confidence ballots to our elections at the very moment that about half the population is questioning the integrity of remote voting (absentee).

A Rutgers report published last month by the Federal Election Assistance Commission shows that less than 12 percent of disability voters would choose an electronic return method over other more conventional choices. See Table 24 in the linked report:

“The key results: About half of people with disabilities, and three-fifths of people without disabilities, would prefer voting in a polling place in the next election. About one-third of people with disabilities would prefer voting by mail , while a combined one-sixth would prefer voting by other methods.”

SB-188 is the bill that opens up an unpopular electronic return for voters who self identify as affected by disability (by simply clicking on the appropriate checkbox in the online portal).   Many voters with a disability will likely not find electronic return accessible. But many who do not have a print disability may find the electronic method more accessible than the vote by mail or drop off that is also accessible for them.

Additional comments on SB-188, including the sponsor’s introductory presentation and some suggested supplemental legislative text for amendment is found here on my website. I suggest you take a look. You may be surprised to hear that the bill passed through the Senate with zero debate on the floor.

Electronic return as it is currently done in Colorado (SBR) isn’t the voter verifiable internet-free paper that we are all proud of. The Demoracy Live and Secure Ballot Return products aren’t subject to certification and other typical oversight. The usage of those electronic methods isn’t even reported on adequately.

I tried to get the data on usage from some counties and also from the SOS and was initially rebuffed – told such reports don’t exist. Finally SOS staff generously hand created a report for me in a long delayed response to a CORA request. I am including the data from that here.

I can’t tell what these numbers actually mean – are they voters? ballots? ballot sheets? Why are some counties reporting more Democracy Live than SBR and some less ballots provided through Democracy Live than ballots returned by SBR?

DLSBRSBR div byDemocracy Live #s by Reason 
6 Cheyenne467% 6 0 0Cheyenne
31 Alamosa2168% 29 2 0Alamosa
16 Prowers1275% 14 1 1Prowers
73 Archuleta5575% 70 2 1Archuleta
9 Mineral778% 8 1 0Mineral
6 Lincoln583% 6 0 0Lincoln
7 Baca686% 4 0 3Baca
29 Gilpin2586% 28 0 1Gilpin
44 Custer3886% 41 3 0Custer
79 Montezuma6987% 78 1 0Montezuma
210 Routt18588% 206 4 0Routt
87 Chaffee7789% 85 1 1Chaffee
128 Grand11489% 98 30 0Grand
111 Teller10090% 111 0 0Teller
315 La Plata28791% 312 3 0La Plata
1592 Larimer146892% 1556 28 8Larimer
3407 El Paso316093% 3317 61 29El Paso
3434 Denver321894% 3301 93 40Denver
285 Summit26894% 283 1 1Summit
257 Pueblo24595% 251 4 2Pueblo
2348 Arapahoe225096% 2263 43 42Arapahoe
2497 Jefferson240496% 2452 33 12Jefferson
343 Mesa33798% 335 6 2Mesa
135 Gunnison13399% 135 0 0Gunnison
634 Weld62899% 571 55 8Weld
1509 Douglas1502100% 1484 15 10Douglas
3096 Boulder3083100% 3050 36 10Boulder
7 Crowley7100% 7 0 0Crowley
12 Huerfano12100% 12 0 0Huerfano
9 Jackson9100% 6 3 0Jackson
1 Kiowa1100% 1 0 0Kiowa
27 Saguache27100% 27 0 0Saguache
97 Montrose98101% 92 4 1Montrose
237 Pitkin240101% 231 4 2Pitkin
277 Broomfield282102% 273 1 3Broomfield
21 Las Animas22105% 20 1 0Las Animas
404 Eagle426105% 402 2 0Eagle
838 Adams890106% 802 22 14Adams
90 Fremont96107% 89 0 1Fremont
10 San Juan11110% 10 0 0San Juan
83 San Miguel93112% 82 1 0San Miguel
39 Otero44113% 38 1 0Otero
23 Moffat26113% 22 0 1Moffat
44 Morgan50114% 43 1 0Morgan
7 Costilla8114% 6 1 0Costilla
218 Garfield251115% 216 1 1Garfield
52 Ouray60115% 52 0 0Ouray
36 Logan42117% 30 3 3Logan
6 Rio Grande7117% 4 0 2Rio Grande
64 Delta76119% 62 1 1Delta
96 Elbert114119% 94 2 0Elbert
59 Clear Creek72122% 58 1 0Clear Creek
4 Sedgwick5125% 4 0 0Sedgwick
81 Park102126% 80 1 0Park
17 Yuma22129% 17 0 0Yuma
10 Conejos13130% 10 0 0Conejos
13 Rio Blanco17131% 13 0 0Rio Blanco
7 Kit Carson11157% 7 0 0Kit Carson
8 Bent15188% 8 0 0Bent
3 Dolores6200% 3 0 0Dolores
2 Hinsdale4200% 2 0 0Hinsdale
2 Phillips4200% 2 0 0Phillips
13 Lake42323% 12 1 0Lake
5 Washington25500% 5 0 0Washington
23610 Totals22931  22936 474 200Column Totals
Nov. 3 2020 Colorado General Election Democracy Live & Secure Ballot Return Usage (data provided by Colorado Secretary of State by email communication)

As you can see the total usage of the Democracy Live Disability Portal was 200 units of some thing- perhaps voters, perhaps ballot downloads or uploads. If you can find out which it is, please let me know.

It has become obvious to me that Colorado’s public doesn’t have any idea what is going on with Democracy Live and Secure Ballot Return, our special mechanisms for military, overseas, emergency and disability voters.  We know even less about the TEXT2CURE product that is a cell phone app. I am not sure if our election officials themselves have access to a good understanding of electronic delivery and return usage. As legislators you may be in a better position to get answers than I am.

I wrote up an amendment for SB-188 that would call for such reports to be made after the SOS tests and certifies that the electronic methods are ready for prime time, meaning secure, accurate, resistant to denial of service, protective of ballot anonymity/ballot secrecy, and fulfilling necessary authentication of the voter and their eligibility. You will find my amendment text on my site here:

We can all agree that existing usage of the disability portal isn’t a problematic quantity. 200 isn’t much whether voters or ballot sheets. However, I predict that usage of this portal could increase dramatically when word gets out that it exists. That could happen any time someone writes a letter to editor to explain where the link to the portal is. Such a letter only needs to include one website address.

Here are the two screens each with a check box that a voter would have to click to obtain access to the electronic methods to vote the disability enabled ballot and if SB-188 passes, to return it by the risky and unverified internet connected method.

I expect the House SCMVA Committee to take a rational position of opposition on the SB-188. The winds including in Congress are blowing in the direction of the Colorado model with our all voter verifiable (and almost all verified) paper. I would hope that the Colorado legislature will not be attempting to whistle upwind – the opposite direction – towards internet voting. With all the extra consternation about accuracy of eligibility and even tabulation from the 2020 election, now is not the time to expend huge resources on serving a small population that has real needs that can be served better other ways. 

SB-188 opens up a crowded (because it is uncontrollable) opportunity to vote by the least secure and least verifiable voting method we have to offer.

If SB-188 is to continue on to the floor, please add integrity through testing and certification and reporting to the remote accessibility voting method and arrange to curtail any inappropriate use of the disability portal. Well written amendments in that direction could tend to keep the risk of interference and denial of service and exposure of identifiable voter intent to a minimum. That minimum presupposes that the disabiity usage is confined to those who really need it.  Or PI the SB-188 and ask for a rewrite.

Thank you.

Harvie Branscomb

Carbondale CO