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Romney votes in Colorado might count for Obama? RNC, officials on computer glitch

The Republican National Committee has sent a letter to six states, including Colorado, warning of "voting machine errors" that could cause a vote intended for Mitt Romney to go to Barack Obama. But according to several Colorado election officials, there's no reason to be concerned -- and they don't believe any votes have gone to the wrong candidate.

Late yesterday afternoon, the RNC sent Colorado reporters a press release highlighting its requests to correct voting machine irregularities in six states. Officials were calling for immediate action regarding "voting machines populating a vote for Barack Obama when the voter desired to cast a ballot for Mitt Romney," the press release said.

Romney-Ryan rally bus at a recent early vote campaign stop.
Romney-Ryan rally bus at a recent early vote campaign stop.
Sam Levin

The attached letter, from John Phillippe, chief counsel, for the RNC, is addressed to Colorado's Republican Secretary of State, Scott Gessler, as well as officials from Nevada, Ohio, Kansas, North Carolina and Missouri.

It says in part:

I write regarding the media and citizen reports of voting machine errors taking place in your states. I understand that, in a significant number of cases, voting machines in your states have populated a vote for Barack Obama when a voter cast his or her ballot for Mitt Romney. I further understand that the causes of this problem are varied, and include miscalibration and hyper-sensitivity of the machines.

The letter, on view below, calls for officials to re-calibrate all voting machines on the morning of election day or the day before, and also requests they make arrangements for additional technicians in the case of increased problems with calibration. The letter also asks that officials prominently post signs reminding voters to double-check that the machines are properly recording their submissions.

An RNC spokesman says the main concern in Colorado stems from a Grand Junction Daily Sentinel piece from last Tuesday in which a voter complained that the machine was recording his vote incorrectly.

The RNC official tells us that this article is the primary source regarding Colorado problems. The issue is considered to be ongoing.

However, Sheila Reiner, the clerk and recorder for Mesa County, where this issue took place, says the situation is much ado about nothing. She adds that she remains very confident in the technology. Additionally, she says that every voter has been able to correctly vote for their candidate of choice.

"There was one instance with a voter not being happy with the way the touch screen responded to his finger," says Reiner, referring to the case covered by the Daily Sentinel.

Continue for more on the case in Mesa County and response from Scott Gessler's office.

Reiner explains that there was a problem with that single machine's calibration -- meaning how the screen responds to touch. Three others had successfully cast their ballots before this individual on the first day of early voting.

Inside the Denver Elections Division.
Inside the Denver Elections Division.
Sam Levin

Once the voter complained about the problem, an election judge gave it a look and staffers had a technician check it out and re-calibrate the machine. It appeared functional after that recalibration, but to be safe, they stopped using the machine anyway.

That voter then cast a paper ballot.

Reiner says that since then, her team has only fielded one other complaint of this nature; it came from one man who was having an issue with a touch screen because his finger was too large. In that case, officials give out a stylus -- a small, pencil-like tool used for screens.

She emphasizes that throughout the voting process, there are several steps in which the voter can clearly see how the machine is recording his or her vote.

"Our equipment gives three opportunities to verify that it is recording correctly," she explains, noting that there's several verification points before the ballot is actually cast and made official.

In response to the RNC request, Reiner says she has already re-calibrated the machines, and will do so again prior to election day. That, she says, is her office's standard procedure.

"I'm not worried," she says. "I have a total confidence."

Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for Gessler, tells us, "If the secretary sees direct evidence that a machine is vulnerable, he's going to act immediately."

He says the Secretary of State's office has not heard any other concerns of this nature other than the Mesa County case, which appears to have been properly handled.

Coolidge makes a similar point as Reiner -- that voters can verify that their ballot was correctly cast. "You can go back and review...and make sure it was recorded accurately."

Continue for the full letter.

Here's the full letter from the RNC to officials in six states, including Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

RNC Letter Regarding Voting Machine Errors

More from our Politics archive: "Republicans ahead of Dems in Colorado early voting, Obama surrogates still confident"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.


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