Dear Member of the Colorado General Assembly and Governor Polis;
Key points about Senate Bill 21-188 (April 25, 2021):
All voters deserve privacy, security: Voters with disabilities deserve access to a practical voting method that provides accuracy and privacy and integrity as well as reasonable convenience and independence. The conventional return envelopes for all voters offer ballot secrecy after the paper ballot is sealed inside. At a minimum all voters ought to be able to control to whom they will be sharing their private information. SB-188 will not give them the chance to control who sees their voter intent.
No real privacy: Remote electronic voting using current systems including Democracy Live in Colorado can’t provide a guarantee of privacy and therefore require a signed affirmation of awareness of the risk to ballot secrecy. At the receiving end of these electronic transmissions privacy is not perfectly maintained even if the software at the voter’s computer and the network communication software does succeed to maintain privacy in spite of the risks of intervention.
Hard to use, assistance likely needed anyway: Navigation through Colorado’s currently available electronic voting portal is complicated enough to ensure that whomever succeeds must be competent with computers or have expert assistance. The idea that many already disenfranchised disability voters will because of this bill be able to vote without needing privacy invasive help is optimistic.
Hundreds of thousands of users: Substantive need is real but relatively rare and other solutions exist such as curbside voting. Many voters can claim disability and honestly fit the definition shown in the ADA but do not need electronic return because they have printers and sufficient knowledge and mobility to use them. In addition, there are individuals with no disability who will choose to click on the disability button on the portal. Voters who choose the portal and will find themselves using electronic return at the risk of incorrect election outcomes if SB-188 is signed. Opportunistic users could easily number in the hundreds of thousands in a Colorado statewide election.
The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability.
Open to misuse: 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 seen above). Many voters with a disability will likely not find electronic return accessible to them. 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 they would otherwise use.
Not to be proud of: Uncertified software that collects votes and delivers them electronically isn’t the voter verifiable non-internet paper ballot that Colorado is proud of. Neither Democracy Live nor Secure Ballot Return software are subject to certification and other typical oversight. The two electronic methods receiving little oversight are not even reported on adequately. SB21-188 could be amended to add reporting and certification requirements or require the SOS to promulgate them by rule.
Experts agree electronic return creates unreasonable risk: The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine have warned about risks of internet voting, https://www.nap.edu/read/25120/chapter/1, as has the US Senate Intelligence Committee. Common Cause is opposing SB21-188 as is Verified Voting as seen here: https://verifiedvoting.org/statement-colorado-sb21-188-internetvoting/ and the ACM and American Association for the Advancement of Science expresses concerns here: https://electionquality.com/acm-aaas-co-sb21-188/.
Wrong year: Congress seems to be favoring 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 legislate in the opposite direction – towards unverified 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.
Extra work: County clerks will need to prepare for a spectacular increase in ballot duplication onto ballot stock if word gets out about the screen shown above from the portal.
Emergency voting fulfills many needs: If the voter is or will be “confined in a hospital or place of residence on Election Day”, the emergency option with electronic return is available. Also the voter may use the emergency ballot option if a member of the “immediate family related to the second degree” is similarly confined.
SB-188 is not the best idea: Colorado is already much respected nationwide for a verified paper ballot voted at home and cast from the hands of the voter. SB-188 allows instead intangible electronic images of ballots to traverse the internet to become unverified paper for tabulation. Perhaps later these unverified paper ballots printed far from the voters’ eyes and accessible verification devices will be sampled for audit. In that case there is little or no reason for confidence that the voter knows what is on the paper that presumably represents their vote.
It is at best regrettable that Colorado’s SB21-188 is attempting to add low confidence ballots to our elections at the very moment that confidence is at an all time low and respect for the Colorado model is at an all time high.
(additional material can be found on this page: https://electionquality.com/2021/04/amend-or-oppose-co-sb21-188/)
(a proposed amendment text is located here: https://electionquality.com/text-for-amendment-of-co-sb21-188/