Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hickenlooper Grovels as Perhaps Thousands are Disenfranchised - Denver's Election Tsunami

Denver's elected City Auditor, Dennis J. Gallagher, wrote to Mayor John Hickenlooper on June 20, 2006, and advised:

I am extremely concerned. I am extremely concerned that the situation at the Denver Election Commission is such that the August Primary election --and concurrent municipal election--as well as possibly the November General Election are in jeopardy...

...there are serious problems at the Commission that in all likelihood may negatively impact the conduct of elections this year. When the situation was being described to me by one informant regarding the ability of the Commission to successfully conduct the upcoming elections, the word "Tsunami" was used. It was stated: "A Tsunami is coming and we are not prepared."

...There is no strategic plan--no road map, no blueprint--for successfully conduct this year's elections. ...Moreover, conducting an election under normal circumstances without a strategic plan would be problematic; doing so under a brand-new untried system without a strategic plan is a huge mistake and a recipe for disaster.

...the mock election that needs to be conducted in advance of every election to test procedures and identify problems in sufficient time before the election to be fixed has not occurred.

...Because of the extent of the problems that exist at the Commission and the urgency in resolving those problems that may negatively impact the August election; and because you have the only direct managerial oversight of the only full-time Election Commissioner -- the Commissioner responsible for the day to day operations of the Commission -- you provide the only real and immediate authority to see that these problems are addressed before the Tsunami hits.

These are extraordinary circumstances that require extraordinary measures to ensure a trouble free election and instill citizen confidence.

...The sacred right of the vote is fundamental to our way of live and government. As I wrote to you last week, the cynicism and growing lack of faith in our democratic institutions is of great concern and we must do everything in our power to restore that faith and ensure that our elections are fair, above-board and trouble-free...
From the Denver Post:

Voting problems overwhelm city

By George Merritt and Katy Human
Denver Post Staff Writers

Frustrated voters stood in lines as long as three hours at several of the more concentrated centers. By 10 p.m., long after media outlets had declared Bill Ritter the winner of the governor's race, problems in Denver and Douglas counties left voters stuck in lines still waiting to cast their ballots.

Some people simply left without voting. Others tried three centers or more in an effort to vote as they faced lines that wrapped around the block.

The Denver Election Commission ran out of provisional ballots at one vote center and began using sample ballots - printed as practice sheets for people waiting in line - as substitute provisional ballots.

Finally, one of the city's two ballot- scanning machines broke, further delaying the count of absentee ballots.

"The count is going to take a few days," Election Commission Executive Director John Gaydeski said. "That's assuming we get the machine fixed."

"The computers have been up and down all day," said Denver Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette. "This is a nightmare throughout the city."

A recent city auditor's report cited the Election Commission for a lack of written procedures and planning.

Denver's woes went on all day long.

The lines moved slowly all morning, but around noon the problem grew worse as the system for verifying voter registration went down at centers around the city.

As early as 7:30 a.m., election judges checking in voters on laptop computers began noticing problems that slowed the system.

At Denver Botanic Gardens, more than 200 voters backed up in a line that stretched out of the gates and down the block toward 11th Avenue.

"We will not get to vote today," said a frustrated Lauren Brockman as he left without even getting through the garden's gates. "Some people have to work."

This was the first general election in which Denver used vote centers rather than traditional precincts, trimming the number of places available for voting from nearly 300 to 55. And the problems became apparent early in the day as lines stretched around blocks.

Denver election officials made an emergency call for volunteer election judges to help, while the Ritter campaign and nonpartisan groups tried to shuttle voters from crowded centers to less crowded centers, or entertain voters with long waits.

Dillard said up to 100 city employees and other Denver residents were sworn in as election judges and deployed at mid morning.

Unfortunately, none of it seemed to help. By nightfall, lines at vote centers around the city once again grew.

There was a line of 275 people at the Tattered Cover Book Store on 16th Street, and the wait was about three hours.

The setbacks throughout the day and the estimated 66 percent turnout - much more than expected - led to a shortage of provisional ballots, which are used when voters can't register or provide identification.

So election officials at one center began using the yellow sample ballots they had printed for voters to practice on.
The quotes:

Denver Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette: "The computers have been up and down all day. This is a nightmare throughout the city." DeGette also said that she had advised Hickenlooper of voting issues after the primary election. "Frankly, he (Hickenlooper) didn't seem very concerned."

Democratic political analyst, Steve Weichert: "The lack of oversight, from the mayor's office on down, is just reprehensible. We better change the voting style in this city, or change the City Council in May."

Dr. Cecil Rose who waited in line at the Denver Botanic Gardens: "I'm completely outraged. It's an attack on the American system. Hickenlooper needs to be accountable."

Denver City Councilwoman, Rosemary Rodriguez, the City's former City Clerk and former member of the Denver Election Commission who has advocated for changes in election oversight for years: "The mayor didn't support anything but the status quo."

And, finally, from the pirouetting snake oil salesman (Hickenlooper) himself:

"I'm here groveling and apologizing on behalf of a grateful city for all of you sticking it out..."

"I don't control the election commission. They don't report to me, but by the end of tomorrow, they may wish they did. Trust me, it will never happen again." (Um, ahem, Mister Mayor, Wayne Vaden, the only full-time election commissioner and the City's Clerk is your appointee, as was so aptly pointed out by Auditor Gallagher in his letter of June 20, 2006.)

"This," the Hick continues, "
has been the most frustrating day since I was mayor." (Isn't he still mayor?? Freudian slip, maybe.)

"I want a thorough explanation of why these things were not anticipated." (Well, sir, they were anticipated, not only by Auditor Gallagher, but others as well. Indeed, a comprehensive audit of the election commission conducted by Auditor Gallagher ANTICIPATED this Katrina, this Tsunami many, many months ago.)

Them's the facts, y'all. No need to editorialize. Make your own conclusions.

P.S. More from VoterJones here.

1 comment:

Doogman said...

What a way to F--K >UP< your political career. Nice work Hick. Now I see why you didn't run for Guv, it clearly would have been too much for ya!!!