Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hickenlooper: "Is there anyone here who doesn't believe there were a lot of bad decisions made?"


First of all, let's talk about Denver streets and inclement weather, shall we.

At 2:19 p.m. Tuesday, I got a text message from a friend in Lakewood reporting that it was snowing over there. Yes, Lakewood is not Denver, but close enough to be contiguous to our southwest border. After receiving the text message, I headed outside here in Northwest Denver and, yes, the little white buggers were beginning to float to the ground from that gray-white sky that had whispered the coming of something significant all morning (my morning begins at about 5:15 a.m.). So, by shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, it was beginning to snow in Denver. Didn't need a weatherman or a weather service contractor to confirm that fact. I just looked outside.

Now, something about magnesium chloride. From usda.gov, just a little snippet: "The liquid magnesium chloride is sprayed on dry pavement prior to precipitation or wet pavement and prior to freezing temperatures in the winter months to prevent snow and ice from adhering and bonding to the roadway."

With me, so far?

Each weekday, Sarah (our Alaskan Malamute) and I walk from our home in Northwest Denver (at about 4:15 p.m.) to 15th Street and I25, where we meet my partner, David, on his way home from work. We hit Highland Park--32nd and Federal--at about 5:00 p.m. on our way back home. Guess what! By the time we reached the park, it was snowing like hell. (I guess "hell" is probably the wrong word, here. But, you get the drift. :- ] )

This morning's Rocky Mountain News, under the banner, "Slow response sluggish (City blames forecasts for lagging other jurisdictions), reports that, "Denver officials blamed faulty weather forecasts for not fully mobilizing to handle Tuesday's heavy snowstorm until midnight, at least six hours after crews from other jurisdictions had kicked into high gear.

"By the time snow started falling during the evening rush hour, Denver had less than half the number of plows on the streets that would be operating by midnight."

A spokesman from Denver's Department of Public Works, Dan Roberts, said, "...the city relied on faulty weather forecasts from a private contractor and early reports from local television stations."

Not to belabor the point, but do you get the feeling that all Hickenlooper's minions have honed in on hizzoner's penchant for declaring, "Ain't my job, man," and then proceeding to point the finger elsewhere; certainly not at themselves?

Hell, they could have called me at about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday and I could have told them, "Ah-yup, it's snowing."

Don't know how long the News will keep the story active on it's site, but here's the link.

Yes, Mister mayor, with regard to one of the core functions of a city--duh!--I don't think "...there's anyone here who doesn't believe there were a lot of bad decisions made."

Now, to the election debacle that hizzoner is addressing with yet another committee/task force/assemblage of good ol' boys and gals.

The story in the News is here.

I'm frankly sick of this election mess--my rants (posts) on the subject are prodigious. Suffice it to say, the Hick is, once again, using what I guess is the only tool he believes he has at his disposal , (to assure deniability, and give the impression that, by God, he's digging into the thing) another committee/task force/assemblage or, what I characterized in another post as "...another opening, another show..." (Cole Porter).

Time after time after time, the Hick was warned by Auditor Gallagher and Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez and others as well, that an election "tsunami" was looming just around the corner (warnings given in ample time to correct or, at least, alleviate, the disaster of November 7th). Did the Hick act? Nope. Instead he simply espoused the lame echo, "Ain't my job, man."

So, not wanting to string this out any longer (I'm sick of it!) let me just end this by saying, yeah, mayor, I really don't believe there's "...anyone here who doesn't believe there were a lot of bad decisions made." I would include, however, that I don't believe there's anyone here who doesn't believe there were a lot of bad omissions and failures to act, by you, sir. You are a "strong mayor," under the Charter. But, alas, you haven't yet really latched on to that concept, have you.

Votes and snow. Bad decisions. Yup, gotta agree.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Snow in Denver Today - Sarah's Delight

Denver Justice Center - Klipp Concept

A piece in this morning's Rocky Mountain News (Mary Voetz Chandler) provides:

Conceptual images of Denver's new courthouse, the first since architect Steven Holl was dismissed from the project, show a precast concrete building with a glass facade.

The design, by Denver-based klipp Architecture, is still evolving, said Denver Justice Center policy manager James Mejia.

Suggestions from a Citizens Advisory Committee of future tenants and neighbors who met last week have yet to be fully incorporated.
And, the klipp design:









As opposed to the Holl design:











Well, what can I say? Precast concrete with a glass facade? James Mejia, the Mayoral appointee who is serving as the Project/Policy Manager/Director observed of the klipp design: "I like the efficiency of it. I like the aesthetics of it, and I like the process," Mejia said.

"The klipp team really has taken to heart comments from the Citizens Advisory Committee."

Klipp observed:"My sense is that, as with all the work we do, our work is redefined and reinvented as we go along," [he] said of any future refinements. "The framework stays, but the translation changes." Hmmmm... Gonna have to think about that one.

What do I know about architecture and design? Not much. But, precast concrete? Hey Susan (Barnes-Gelt), ain't lookin' like an "iconic" structure to me. But, again, what do I know.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Denver Justice Center - Finally, Peer Review

Two pieces in this morning's paper (The Denver Newspaper Agency running both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, operating under a JOA--Joint Operating Agreement) provide interesting contrasts--with regard to perceptions of its purpose--to the recently established peer review group that will contribute to the review of the design for the Denver Justice Center. You remember the Denver Justice Center? You remember Steven Holl's exit from the process?

Susan Barnes-Gelt, writing in this morning's Post, notes that "...in an attempt to reinforce confidence in the ability of local architect Brian Klipp to lead the courthouse design, the city last week assembled a peer review team to critique the project as it moves through it design stages..."

An editorial in the Rocky Mountain News provides that "James Mejia, the project's policy manager, said panel members [of the peer review group] should have an interest in assisting the design process, rather than merely critiquing it."

It's that word "critique" that seems to bother Mister Mejia. You may recall that it is most likely the unfortunate exit of Steven Holl from the project was Mejia's operational and political demands as opposed to the design and architectural passions of Holl. To quote Holl: "The director of the project under the Mayor effectively rejected our design. In fact, he says that in a sentence in one of the recent newspaper articles. Here is the problem focused. How can a city which invested so much effort in selecting an architect put the decision for the architectural design in the hands of those who were not partial to the ideas of the selection committee and not sympathetic to an intense work of public architecture?"

Barnes-Gelt quotes architect and Golden Triangle leader Dennis Humphries: "The Golden Triangle [area in which the Denver Justice Center will be built] neighbors made that suggestion three years ago [peer review], but it took the national Urban Land Institute site review team to persuade the city it was the right thing to do. I believe outside experts will be more candid in their criticism than a local review committee might be."

Barnes-Gelt reports that the peer review group will consist of three national and three local architects. Bruce Kuwabara, a partner with Toronto's Kuwabara Payne McKenna Bluberg; John Ellis, a principal with Solomon ETC in San Francisco; Laurie Olin, who teaches landscape design at the University of Pennsylvania.

Barnes-Gelt opines that, "If these three experts can help harmonize the relationships of the buildings in the justice center campus to one another, to the neighborhood and to the city, the extra time and money will be a wise investment."

What Barnes-Gelt didn't say was that it may be more difficult for the peer review team to get past Mister Mejia's aversion to that darned cumbersome, democratic concept embodied in the word "critique," than it is to provide a final plan for the Justice Center complex.

Mister Mejia is, by the way, a political appointee of the mayor. And, let it never be said I even suggested he's a wee bit out of his element here. Nope! Never said it!



Denver Union Station - Rebirth

The conceptual vision on the left has been chosen for Denver's Union Station "remake." DenverInfill has a great recap of the competing designs, costs, efficiencies. Most folks, myself included, were enraptured by the losing vision, below.









A piece in this morning's Denver Post provides a good overview of anticipated transportation needs that will, in part, be fulfilled by the Continuum and East West Partners design.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Denver Election Commission & Sequoia - Historical Perspective Part II - Just Food for Thought

Seems I've been trumped by this morning's Rocky Mountain News on the follow-up to my earlier post.

A piece, by Jeff Smith, in the News this morning provided the following:

There's no shortage of election conspiracy theories, and Internet blogs have been intrigued over the years with the relationship between Sequoia and Mike Frontera, Denver's former election commission executive director.

Frontera was hired by Sequoia in 1998, two years after Denver agreed to purchase $6.6 million of equipment from the company.

Denver election officials at the time defended Frontera, saying that only the three election commissioners are involved in the purchasing decisions.

Frontera added Friday that he was public information officer at the time of the purchase, and a year later became executive director overseeing the implementation of the Sequoia system.

He said he had applied for a job at U S West in 1998, using Sequoia as a reference, and that Sequoia then offered him a job when they realized he was looking.

Frontera made headlines again in 2004, when he and another Sequoia employee were spotted in the vote-counting room in Riverside County, Calif., during a spring election. Early results in a county supervisor race indicated the likelihood of a runoff, but by the end of the counting, one of the candidates had narrowly won a majority of the votes.

Frontera said the contract called for Sequoia employees to support the system, and that the two were helping upload voting results to the California Secretary of State's Office.

"We could have been helping out with a problem with our system," Frontera said. "It was all in public view. That's why people looking through the glass saw we were there."

He characterized the Internet blog reports as "lingering and annoying," adding that "it's a little scary that someone can Google you" and this is what they'll find.
Let's be more precise, shall we.

From the 2002 recodification of the Denver Charter (as in the prior codification):
§ 8.1.6 Appropriations to support Commission.
The Council shall appropriate sufficient funds to the Election Commission to enable the Commission to conduct elections and to obtain suitable offices, supplies, and employees to perform its duties. The Commission may, in its discretion, utilize the services of City and County departments in making such acquisition.
So, the News conclusion, or what they were told by someone that: "Denver election officials at the time defended Frontera, saying that only the three election commissioners are involved in the purchasing decisions," begs the question why procurement professionals, i.e. the city's Purchasing Division was not involved--were not called upon by the three Election Commissioners in 1996-'97--to conduct a bid or RFP (I still don't know what purchasing"best practices" process was utilized by the Election Commission to purchase the initial Sequoia equipment) which, by Charter, they certainly could have done. Why, was the Election Commission in 1996-'97 not interested in the transparent and unquestionably public process utilized to procure anything; from nuts and bolts to street sweepers and airport snow removal equipment to, yes, voting machines that the Purchasing Division could have provided to them?

History provides clues, not necessarily conclusions, as to what the dynamics were that brought Mike Frontera to the Denver Election Commission, first as the Public Information Officer and then to the position of Executive Director.

In my earlier post, I noted that Marcia Johnson (President of the election Commission in 1996), now City Councilwoman Marcia Johnson, was the moving force behind the search for new voting equipment for the City and County of Denver. At that time, Arlys Ward was the Executive Director of the Denver Election Commission, a position that serves at the pleasure of the two elected and one mayoral appointed Clerk and Recorder, who is the third member of the Election Commission.

It is important to note that on July 21, 1997, the Denver City Council passed an ordinance (No. 472, Series of 1997) that reads: "...the Council of the City and County of Denver hereby approves and authorizes the expenditure and payment from the 1997 appropriation account designated as 'Liability Claims,' the sum of Thirty-Five Thousand Dollars ($35,000), made payable to Arlys H. Ward and David C. Feola, Attorney at Law, as the full settlement of Ms. Ward's employment dispute."

The nature of the "employment dispute," is, of course, not known and, unless Ms. Ward is forthcoming, may never be known.

Enter Mike Frontera. He replaced Arlys Ward as Executive Director of the Election Commission either during or sometime shortly after the "employment dispute between the Commission and Arlys Ward was commenced or settled.

Historical perspective does not necessarily provide conclusions, just facts upon which conclusions can be made or rejected.

Finally, a few historical notes. You can make your own conclusions.

Sequoia project manager Mike Frontera said his company's equipment is being used in some 40 counties nationwide and only Hillsborough has experienced this glitch.

Frontera and two helpers replicated the problem Thursday, watching a laptop computer freeze when a cartridge was prematurely pulled from a reader. But he still could not rule out transmission line failure or hardware problems.

So on Thursday, Frontera sent a Dell laptop computer and an Antec data reader to Oakland, Calif., where company technicians were to give the hardware the once-over.

"I think the solution will be one of those things where you slap yourself in the head and say, 'Ah, that was easy,' " Frontera said. "Or maybe it was something like the full moon." St. Petersburgh Times, April 6, 2002

and,

Section 18575 of the California Elections Code makes it illegal for anyone other than an election officer to handle, count, or canvass ballots:

Every person is guilty of a felony, and on conviction shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years, who at any election:
(a) without first having been appointed and qualified, acts as an election officer,
(b) not being an election officer, performs or discharges any of the duties of an election officer in regard to the handling, counting, or canvassing of any ballots

This section provides that only authorized people, such as an election officer, may count votes. To the extent that an unauthorized person handles or counts votes, he or she is in violation of section 18575.

... Who are the men from Sequoia who accessed the central tabulator on election night, during the middle of the vote count?

Michael Frontera is a former Denver Elections Commission executive who took a position with Sequoia shortly after placing $6.6 million in Sequoia orders with Denver. Eddie Campbell is a Sequoia employee who lives in Denver.

What were they doing to the tabulator when Frontera was typing information into it?

I called Mischelle Townsend to ask this question, and she did call back, but I was in my car and could not take notes. I arranged to call her back shortly after 1:30 p.m., when she said she would be getting out of a meeting. I made four follow up calls, but she did not answer, and I called her office three times, but was told she is not there. I will keep this question open so that we can get an answer, and will update this site - (http://www.blackboxvoting.org) with Townsend's response.

I called Alfie Charles of Sequoia, three times, but he did not take my call. He e-mailed me to say that I must submit my questions in writing in order to get a response, a poor option for any journalist, as this does not allow you to ask any follow up questions or ask for clarification. I will keep this question open for Mr. Charles as well, and will update this site with his response.

Additional questions for Townsend and Charles:

1.When, how, and by whom were Frontera and Campbell "appointed and qualified" as elections officers? My fax number is 425-228-3965, and I will await the faxed documentation on this.

According to the California Elections Code section 18564,

"Any person is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in a state prison for two, three, or four years who, before or during an election:...
(b) interferes or attempts to interfere with...ballot tally software program source codes..."

Thus, it certainly looks bad, and deserves a full written explanation, when a person who does not work for the County and is not even a resident of the state of California is typing instructions into the central tabulation program during the middle of a count on election night.

But could "typing into the computer" interfere with the software program source codes?" Scoop, Independent News, April 2, 2004

More here

I think I've had enough of this mess. Still, it is estimated that, at least, 18,000 citizens were denied their right to vote in Denver on November 7, 2006. That ain't right, folks.

P.S. No, Mike, the moon was not Full on November 7th of this year. That occurred on November 5th. And, Jeff Smith of the Rocky: no consipiracy theories here, my man. Just facts.

Ed Stein - Rocky Mountain News - A Disenfranchised Voter

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Denver Referred Question 1A - Preschool Initiative - Update

Apparently only 5,000 "provisional" votes remain to be counted by the Denver Election Commission. And, if I'm not mistaken, by statute, the votes have to be counted by the end of the day, today.


Denver Question 1A

Votes-------Total Votes------ % Votes
YES ------- 74684/147,658--- -50.58%
NO -------- 72974/147,658---- 49.42%

P.S. Anon (see comment) corrected me. Apparently, the DEC has until Nov. 21st to provide the final tally.

It's Good to be the Mayor - Hickenlooper's Grandstand

Mayor Hickenlooper, for years, ignored warnings from Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez, Auditor Gallagher and others that the Denver Election Commission was screwed up beyond redemption and that the election process in Denver was doomed to failure (as was so grossly demonstrated on November 7th). So, what does the "business mayor" do? Well, yes, he forms another "blue ribbon" committee to study the issue. Unfortunately, many of the members of the committee don't have a clue about the Denver Election Commission or the election process itself. Witness a quote by the Hick himself from the Rocky Mountain News this morning, "You've got people like Dick Notebaert, who runs Qwest, and Ralph Peterson, who runs CH2M Hill--they don't know what the (Denver) Election Commission is," the mayor said after the 90-minute meeting. "That's not part of their universe."

Duh!

A couple comments from my prior post seem relevant this morning:

Anonymous said:

Old Hick is good at public hearings and blue ribbon panels. What went wrong with the elections? It should be fun. The City fucked up. Next election don't fuck up. Do the opposite of what you did this time around. Some good letters in the Rocky this morning. Where was the City's Legal Department with that Hiawatha (or whatever the name of that company is) contract? If we are to believe the Auditor, they completely dropped the ball and rubber-stamped the vendor's interests.


In olden days a glimpse of stocking...Anything Goes!


Anonymous said...

Another panel another show....

The most productive thing the panel members could do would be to TALK to every Election Commission employee that ran Denver's well run elections from 2001 to 2003.

A scant few are still employed at the Denver Election Commission and they are easy to find. JUST WALK ACROSS THE STREET from the City & County building and have a little chat.

Others are still in Denver and would LOVE the opportunity to say what REALLY happened after Interim Denver Election Commission director - Lynn Wolfe - was pushed aside in June 2003 and new Executive Director Karon Hatchett took charge of the commission along with Commissioners Sandy Adams, Susan Rogers and Wayne Vaden.
Nope. The Hick Administration has, from day one, relegated those public servants who have collective experience and knowledge spanning decades, to little more than insignificant bureaucratic slugs who have nothing to offer and can be ignored, shoved to the corner to wallow in their (as is the case with the Denver Election Commission) little particular corner of hell. A hell, by the way, perpetuated by the reprehensible failures of a mayor who seems intent on dismantling Denver's "strong mayor" form of government. Indeed, love or hate Wellignton Webb (Denver's prior mayor), I'll bet a bottle of Maker's Mark that he would have had a, or several, little tete-a-tetes with the Denver Election commissioners using some downhome expletives to get the point across. The power, influence of Denver's "strong mayor" used to be immense. Today, we've got the Hick who just explains, "It ain't my job, man," and puts together another "blue ribbon" committee that really doesn't know what the hell it's doing.

The Denver City Council, Rosemary Rodriguez and Auditor Gallagher have already told the Hick what needs to happen. So, make it happen, Mayor. You can do it, buddy. Make a decision for yourself once in a while.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ed Stein - This Morning's Rocky Mountain News

Denver Election Commission - a Punxsutawney State of Mind!

Another Committee, Another Show - Denver Election Commission Woes

Another op'nin, another show
In Curtis Park, West Highlands and Belcaro
A chance for stage folks to say hello!
Another op'nin of another show.

Another job that you hope will last
Will make your future forget your past
Another pain where the ulcers grow
Another op'nin of another show.

Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse
Three weeks, and it couldn't be worse
One week, will it ever be right?
Then out of the hat it's that big first night

The overture is about to start
You cross your fingers and hold your heart
It's curtain time and away we go -
Another op'nin
Just another op'nin of another show!
(Another Opening, Another Show - Cole Porter)

Two communications to City and County of Denver employees with regard to the Mayor's and Denver Election Commission's botched, reprehensible performance on November 7th. Yes, I include the mayor, John Hickenlooper, here, although the spin from the Mayor's Office remains, "Not my job, man." Warning, after warning, after warning about the deficiencies extant with Denver's election process were apparently ignored by Hizzoner. The spin continues. Another committee, another show, another gathering of the usual Joes (Janes).


From: CCD Employee Bulletins
Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2006 2:14 PM
Subject: City Council Public Hearing on Election: 12/2

Denver City Council

City Council Hosts Public Hearing on December 2nd to examine November 7, 2006 Election
Meeting to gather citizen input on election issues and experiences; Denver Election Commissioners invited.

(DENVER) The Denver City Council will convene a public hearing on Saturday, December 2nd from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. in the Denver City Council Chambers to gather comment on the conduct of the recent November 7th election.

This session will give Denver citizens the opportunity to speak to City Council members about their election experiences, as well as offer recommendations to Council for restoring public trust in the Denver election process. Denver Election Commissioners Wayne Vaden, Sandy Adams and Susan Rogers have been invited to respond to citizen comments at the meeting.

City Council members agreed through a proclamation offered at their November 13, 2006 Council meeting, that the election process in Denver on November 7, was unacceptable. Voters experienced extremely long lines at many vote centers, due to breakdowns in the new “electronic poll book” at the 55 voting centers that replaced 210 neighborhood-based precinct polling places. The Election Commission is still in the process of counting many provisional ballots received in the now week-old election. In the proclamation, Council also thanked Denver citizens for their patience and devotion to the democratic process, despite the overwhelming inconveniences suffered.

Citizens not able to attend this meeting may direct their election concerns to Council members via electronic mail at DENCC-Election@ci.denver.co.us . The Denver City Council Chamber is located in the City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St., Room 451, Denver, Colorado.

###

From: CCD Employee Bulletins
Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2006 2:14 PM
Subject: Investigative Panel on Election - Update

Sent on behalf of the Mayor's Office and CityCouncil...

Mayor Hickenlooper and Council President Hancock Launch Investigative Panel on Election Troubles

First Meeting on Wednesday, November 15, 2006

(DENVER) This Wednesday, November 15, 2006, at 3:00 p.m., Mayor John Hickenlooper and City Council President Michael Hancock will convene the short-term, action-oriented investigative panel announced last week to quickly analyze Denver’s election problems and develop actionable solutions that are expected to form the foundation of a proposed charter reform amendment. The hour-and-a-half meeting will take place in the Mayor’s Office (City and County Building, 1437 Bannock, Suite 350), and will be the first of five weekly meetings for the panel. This quick timeline will provide ample time for City Council to consider any Charter change recommendations for the May 2007 municipal ballot.

The broad-based panel of community leaders will review feedback and hear testimony from groups affected by or with perspective on the November 7 election including technology experts, FairVote Colorado, the disabled community, and the political parties. Summaries of feedback from election judges and voters will be provided to the panel, whose members will also have the opportunity to hear public input at City Council’s December 2, 2006, public hearing on the election. More details on the investigative panel’s meeting schedule are included below.

The investigative panel will be composed of the following individuals:

Co-Chairs
John Hickenlooper Mayor, City and County of Denver

Michael Hancock President, Denver City Council

Members

Dr. Paul Burleson President, Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance
Scott Doyle Clerk and Recorder, Larimer County
Hubert Farbes Attorney/Shareholder, Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber; Former CO Asst. Atty. General
Jenny Flanagan Executive Director, Colorado Common Cause
Dennis Gallagher Auditor, City and County of Denver (invited, participation not yet confirmed)
Dusti Gurule Director, Latina Initiative
Rosemary Marshall Colorado State Representative, House District 8
Richard Notebaert Chairman and CEO, Qwest
Ralph Peterson Chairman and CEO, CH2M Hill
Dan Ritchie Chancellor Emeritus, University of Denver
Rosemary Rodriguez Denver City Councilwoman, District #3; Former Denver Clerk & Recorder
Paula Sandoval Colorado State Senator, Senate District 34
Sandra Shreve President, League of Women Voters of Denver

“From the Charter-mandated governance of the Election Commission to the processes by which they conduct elections to the technology itself - all options are on the table; nothing is sacred,” said Hickenlooper, when he announced the panel last week. “The goal of this group is to evaluate the disconnection between the City’s intentions, our fully expressed expectations and the unacceptable outcomes. We must remove politics from the equation, probe deeply and act quickly.”

By City Charter, the Denver Election Commission is an independent agency over which the Mayor and City Council have no direct control or authority. Currently, two of the three Election Commissioners are independently elected by Denver voters. Together with the Clerk and Recorder, they hire and manage the DEC’s Executive Director.

"While the Mayor, City Council and the community at-large agree that change is necessary, we want to ensure that any proposed reforms fully address all electoral needs without unintended consequences that do more harm than good,” said Council President and Panel Co-Chair Hancock. “This process will provide vital information on which to build reform efforts, and the public airing of information will help to restore public trust in our electoral systems."

Investigative Panel on Elections – Meeting Schedule

Wednesday, November 15 - Establish Context/Governance Assessment: Mayor’s Office

Introductions, overview of panel’s specific goals and objectives of the panel

Overview of current election governance/structure in Denver and history of Denver election process

Review of best practices and process alternatives that comply with legal and regulatory guidance

Discussion of governance alternatives

MEETING TWO - Election Process and Issues: Location TBD

Overview of 11/06 election planning, systems, processes, technology, etc.
Detailed overview of problems that occurred

MEETING THREE – Discussion of Critical Failures: Location TBD

Technology issues: software, servers, voting machines, counting machines
Process issues: capacity, participation, check-in, absentee ballots
Assessment of potential causes for critical failures and needed changes

MEETING FOUR – Discussion of Possible Changes: Location TBD

Oversight/Governance
Management/Staffing – qualifications, compensations, staffing levels, poll workers
Leveraging City’s technology expertise
Elections Process – vote centers vs. precincts vs. mail, etc.

MEETING FIVE – Development of Final Recommendations: Location TBD

# # #

Monday, November 13, 2006

Colorado's Marriage Amendment - Same-Sex Equal Rights


"Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws. Amendment 2 violates the Equal Protection Clause..." Justice Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court writing for the majority in the Romer v. Evans case of (1996).

First, the numbers: (These are incomplete totals, as Denver is STILL counting!)

Amendment 43 provided (via amendment to the Colorado Constitution) that marriage is a union only between one woman and one man. (A Yes vote, for argument sake, is bad!)

Statewide --------------------------------City and County of Denver
Yes: 768,700 - 55.67% ----------------Yes: 57,306 - 37.64%
No: 612,155 - 44.33%------------------No: 94,936 - 62.36%

Referendum I provided that same-sex partners would be granted the same spousal rights as married couples. (A Yes vote, for argument sake, is Good!)

Statewide ----------------------------------City and County of Denver
Yes: 641,443 - 48.86%------------------Yes: 101,268 - 66.99%
No: 727,433 - 53.14%-------------------No: 49,901 - 33.01%

It is, perhaps, instructive to look at Colorado's Amendment 2 (1992) that would have prohibited: "all legislative, executive, or judicial action at any level of state or local government designed to protect the status of persons based on their 'homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships'."

Amendment 2 passed statewide by a margin of 53.4% to 46.6%. After going through the state courts, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1996, declared Amendment 2 unconstitutional...re: the quote from Justice Kennedy that began this post.

Looking at the numbers, can a conclusion be made that the mindset of the Colorado electorate with regard to "gay rights" has not changed since 1992? The numbers tend to indicate an affirmation of the same. However, a comprehensive look at "gay rights" attitudes in Colorado is provided here from Ciruli and Associates, a Denver-based political polling/thinktank entity.

It is, of course, evident that if one is gay or lesbian in Colorado, Denver (or Boulder) is probably the most friendly city to settle in or stay in, if you're already here. Northern and Northeastern Colorado--the good folks who have sent Marilyn Musgrave back to the U.S. House and just love the dickens out of Senator Wayne "Potted Plant" Allard--is probably not the best place to hold your gay pride parade. Colorado Springs (Southern and Southwestern Colorado, the home of James Dobson's "Focus on the Family," and the Reverend Ted Haggard's megachurch) are also probably not the best place to plan your next wine and cheese "white" party. (A "white" party is... Oh, well, my brothers and sisters know what I'm talking about.)

Suffice it to say, Amendment 2 from 1992 and Amendment 43 from 2006, are decidedly, uncompromisingly regressive and--dare I suggest--unconstitutional. Amendment 2 was, of course, already adjudicated by the Supremes. We'll wait and see what transpires with Amendment 43.

On final note. Mike Davis' (the male prostitute who outed Ted Haggard) stated intent to influence the Amendment 43 and Referendum I vote in Colorado was, in my humble opinion, grossly misguided. Human beings have this silly habit--beginning deep down in their gut and the consequential fluxing up into the gray matter--of forming what are called "stereotypes." I believe Mike Davis provided a surly, distasteful view of the underbelly of sexuality; not only gay, but straight, as well. The down home folks just get a little uncomfortable with that image, that reality and, yes, form that irrepressible stereotype. Sure, the down homers weren't really that uncomfortable with, for example, Jimmy Swaggert (or Ted Haggard) messing around with a prostitute, then bawling about it before his congregation, then continuing on, forgiven, no big deal. But, with those of us who ain't "normal..." Well, you get the point.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Denver Election Commission and Sequoia - Historical Perspective Part I

There is history here that may be of interest. Suffice it to say, the Denver Election Commission's relationship with Sequoia (DRE voting machines) is long-standing.

It was April in 1996, when the President of the Denver Election Commission, Marcia Johnson (now Denver City Councilwoman, Marcia Johnson, who represents the 5th Council District) tied up a task force established to select a new voting system for the City and County of Denver. Ms. Johnson chaired the task force (I don't recall if there was a co-chair). Denver's Executive Director of the Election Commission (serving at the pleasure of the Commission) was, at that time, Arlys Ward. Ward would soon be replaced by a young man named Mike Frontera. The mayoral appointed Clerk and Recorder, who was also a member of the Election Commission, was, at that time, Elbra Wedgeworth (now Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, representing District 8).

A supervisor from the City's Department of General Services, Purchasing Division, served on the task force in an advisory role. A memorandum to Ms. Johnson from that procurement professional dated April 26, 1996, noted the following:

SUBJECT: Task Force - Voting Machines/Process for Procurement

The following observations and discussion of purchasing processes may be helpful in determining what course the Election Commission wishes to follow pursuant to the completion of the Task Force’s responsibility in reference to the above.

1.) Bidder’s Proposal: A Bidder’s Proposal is issued, most generally, by the Purchasing Division when the “scope” of the requirement for goods or services is absolutely defined in such a manner that the “award” can be made on the basis of the lowest net price from a qualified, responsive bidder.

2.) Request for Proposals (RFP): A Request for Proposal is issued, most generally, by the Purchasing Division when the “scope” of the requirement for goods or services may be defined as a specific need or goal (we know what we want to accomplish) but the solution (the means to get there) is not so well defined. The RFP, therefore, requires the proposer to provide the means or solution to accomplish what we identified as our specific need or goal. An RFP is, most generally, awarded on the basis of cost and subjective evaluation criteria. Further, RFPs are issued, most generally, for what are referred to as “professional” or “technical” services.

3.) Responsive Bidder/Proposer: The “responsiveness” of a bidder or proposer is determined by a number of factors. Did the bidder or proposer offer what was specified in the “scope” of the bid or proposal? Did the bidder or proposer provide all information pertinent to financial stability; qualifications of personnel; appropriate staffing, etc.? Did the bidder or proposer provide a bid bond, if required?

4.) Qualified Bidder/Proposer: A “qualified” bidder or proposer is one who is able to verify that they meet or exceed the “threshold qualifications” set out in the bid or proposal. For example, if the bid or proposal requires that the bidder or proposer have no less than five (5) years experience in the manufacture of voting machines, then a “qualified” bidder or proposal must provide verifiable proof that they, indeed, have five (5) years experience in the manufacture of voting machines.

5.) Election Commission Purchasing Authority: The Charter provides that the Election Commission, “...unless otherwise provided by ordinance, may provide for the use of mechanical or other devices for voting or counting the votes...” (Charter C1.21); and, “The Board of Councilmen shall appropriate sufficient funds to the election commission to enable the commission to obtain suitable offices, supplies, and employees to perform its duties. The commission may, in its discretion, utilize the services of city and county departments in making such acquisition,” (Charter C1.24). Therefore, I believe it is clear the Election Commission has the “discretion” to utilize other city and county departments in making purchases that are essential to its operation. And, of course, I believe it is clear that the Election Commission has the “discretion” not to utilize other city and county departments in making purchases that are essential to its operation.

6.) Discussion of State Certified Voting Systems: A point was made during the last Task Force meeting that the State of Colorado has certified several (I believe the number was four) voting systems for use in the counties of Colorado. The systems certified include both DRE and paper ballot systems. The significance of this point was well-taken and probably provides the most fundamental dilemma for the Election Commission. If a system has been certified by the State, then does it naturally follow that any one of those certified systems is appropriate for use in the City and County of Denver? And, therefore, any specification written for the purchase of a new voting system must be inclusive of all systems certified by the State and any subjective criteria applied to an RFP issued for the purchase of same must, therefore, preclude criteria that will eliminate or more heavily favor one system over another.

I suggested at the last Task Force meeting that it was my opinion that the State of Colorado includes counties that are significantly varied in demography and even though the State has certified differing voting systems for Colorado counties, what may be an appropriate, workable system for Paonia may not be appropriate or workable in Denver. I, therefore, concluded that I believe the Election Commission is charged with determining what voting system will serve to fulfill the best interests of the City and County of Denver.

I suggest that this issue will provide the basis for argument from providers of systems that have been determined by the Task Force to be “lacking” in several important needs the Task Force has identified as, at least, important if not essential.

7.) Makeup of Evaluation Committee Pursuant to an RFP: The makeup of the evaluation committee pursuant to an RFP would, most appropriately, be persons in positions of knowledge and experience with voting in the City and County of Denver. Certainly, I would expect that Election Commission staff, Clerk and Recorder staff and persons intimately familiar with and involved in voting in Denver be included on the evaluation committee. I do not believe private citizens who have served as Election Judges would be precluded from sitting on the evaluation committee (although I would suggest an inquiry be made to the City Attorney for guidance on this issue). As an example, if the Purchasing Division issues an RFP for widgets, the evaluation committee would consist of using agency personnel who have knowledge and experience with widgets and/or the application for which the widgets are to be utilized.

8.) Involvement of the Purchasing Division in this Procurement: I made the point at the last Task Force meeting, that if the Purchasing Division were to be asked to issue the RFP for a new voting system for the City and County of Denver, then the process of the procurement might be viewed as being more “open.” I did not mean to imply that if the Election Commission chooses to pursue the procurement on their own that same may be viewed as a “closed” process which would preclude genuine “competition.” My point was simply that the Purchasing Division has the expertise to write an RFP that, hopefully, would best serve to preclude “proprietary” or “exclusive” specifications or subjective evaluation criteria. In either case -- whether the Election Commission or the Purchasing Division issues the RFP -- the dilemma described in point 6, above, will be an issue.

cc: Elbra Wedgeworth, Clerk and Recorder
Arlys Ward, Executive Director, Election Commission, Ron Bernstein, Deputy Manager of General Services - Purchasing
The Purchasing Division was not called upon by the Election Commission to conduct a bid or RFP process. They conducted their own process--the details of which were not likely shared with the Purchsing Division--that led to the initial purchase of Sequoia DRE (direct-recording electronic) machines.

This initial purchase of Sequoia voting machines was accomplished utilizing "borrowed" funds through an entity called the Denver Capital Leasing Corporation (DCLC). (Note: The link will take you to the Colorado Secretary of State database. Click on "Home," then "Search Business Database," then input "Denver Capital Leasing Corporation." At the bottom left of the screen, click on "View Documents and History.) If memory serves, this corporation was, in part, the brainchild of J. D. MacFarlane, a former Colorado Attorney General who became, under Mayor Federico Pena, the Manager of Safety. At the time of the incorporation, in 1986, strapped for cash but desperately needing new police equipment--namely fleet vehicles--the DCLC purpose was articulated as:

(a) To acquire by purchase, lease or otherwise, interests in personal and real property, to construct, renovate or install imporvements and to lease or otherwise convey said interests in personal and real property and improvements to the City and County of Denver...

(b) To borrow money, to become indebted, and to execute and deliver bonds, notes, debentures, certificats of participation in lease or other revenues, or other securities, instruments or obligations for the purposes of acquiring, selling or leading such interests in personal and real property, constructing, renovating or installing such improvements, and for such other purpose or purposes as may be necessary or desirable to accomplish the objectives of the corporation. Such indebtedness may be unsecured or may be secured by any mortgage, trust deed or other lien upon the property to be acquaired or any other property of the corporation...
The utilization of the DCLC mushroomed through the years, enabling the purchase of a plethora of stuff, including equipment for what was then Denver Health and Hospitals (now Denver Health Medical Center). Of course, title to what was purchased through the DCLC remained in the name of the DCLC until the City satisfied the debt through periodic payments authorized by the Denver City Council.

The initial purchase of Sequoia DRE voting equipment in 1997, was accomplished via the DCLC funding mechanism. The Ordinances passed by the Denver City Council authorizing the purchase of the DRE mahcines were 303 and 304 (which, for some reason cannot be linked from the Denver Clerk and Recorder site???) , both Series of 1997. An expenditure (financed with the issuance of certificates of participation, "COP Funding") was $5,297,400. The DRE machines authorized to be purchased were AVC Advantage manufactured by Sequoia.

Part II: The curious ascendency of Mike Frontera to the position of Executive Director, Denver Election Commission.

P.S. More from VoterJones here.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mayor, City Attorney Apparently Ignored Early Warnings of Incompetency at the Denver Election Commission

VoterJones, this morning, expounds at length on the fact that Mayor Hickenlooper and his City Attorney, Cole Finegan were warned as early as March, 2005, that incompetency reigned supreme at the Denver Election Commission. Yes, of course, the pirouettes the Hickenlooper administration have been engaged in for the past few days are typically misleading; the doublespeak of the Hick's hired hands. But, in its entirety, here's VoterJones latest piece:

The Talented Mr. Rainey

November 11, 2006

Screamingly bad personnel decisions are at the root of Denver's Election Day Debacle. Today's Rocky Mountain News offers a stunning portrait of an incompetent employee who was retained and protected by top officials despite "well-known" concerns about his job performance.

The Commission's "technology expert" Anthony Rainey was in charge of the computer systems that crashed on Election Day, outraging thousands of Denver voters including Mayor Hickenlooper. But Hickenlooper and his staff were well aware of Rainey's incompetence and abetted it with their inaction.

DEC Executive Director John Gaydeski is on record defending Rainey. When I questioned Rainey's qualifications months ago, Gaydeski assured City Council that "Anthony Rainey's background is IT and he is an expert in that field."

More damning, Commissioner Wayne Vaden openly admitted his own jawdropping abdication of managerial responsibility with regard to Rainey. According to the Rocky:

"I was hearing Sara (Harmer). . . walking out saying he doesn't want to talk to me," Vaden recounted. The city clerk said he ordered Rainey: "Yes, the hell you will (work with her), because this is going to be my a-- if everything falls apart."

Vaden said after 15 minutes of "back and forth," he felt he'd gotten assurances that Rainey and the tech specialists would work to solve the problem.

In most workplaces, insubordination results in disciplinary action and, possibly, immediate termination. But not at the City, apparently. Instead of taking charge, Vaden haggled "back and forth" to cajole a subordinate whose behavior was inappropriate by most workplace standards. In the private sector, Rainey would have been shitcanned in a heartbeat.

Also in today's paper, the Rocky editorial board cited problems with switching to an all-mail election. One significant concern is that the Election Commission has no system for verifying voter signatures.

The editorial didn't mention it, but Rainey was in charge of the interminable, costly "signature scanning" project at the DEC to create a signature verification system. As you might guess, there is no system.

So, um, how were election judges verifying voter signatures on tens of thousands of absentee ballots cast in this election? Did the DEC just decide to skip that part of the whole "election integrity" thing?

My impression is that controls and procedures have broken down beyond repair, especially in the DEC's panic to count the remaining ballots. Fox 31 News reported on their website: "In Denver, election officials now estimate there's one-thousand more uncounted [ballots] than originally thought. They say there [are] more ballots in each storage tray than they originally thought."

Truly alarming. "Oops, we weren't really keeping track of the ballots and found some extras." When done correctly, procedure requires that each ballot and the numbers of ballots in batches be tracked every step of the way through the process. Clearly, that's not happening right now.

Below are the two letters cited in the Rocky about Anthony Rainey. They were written by a City Council aide who had worked at the DEC. One was given to Mayor Hickenlooper and one to Chief of Staff Cole Finegan last year.

Everyone in a position of responsibility -- from the mayor to Vaden to Gaydeski -- knew that Rainey was a detriment to the DEC. Yet they put Rainey in charge of technology for the most technology-dependent election in city history.

Whose fault is that?

*

March 1, 2005

Mayor Hickenlooper,

There is a large management problem at the Denver Election Commission. The management problems led to major cost over runs and errors in the November election. The situation has continued to deteriorate.

Months ago the employees came to me with their grievances. They came to me since they knew me, had worked with me, knew I understood the work of the election commission, and felt that since I had moved to employment with the Denver City Council that I could do something about the situation.

The Council has no power over this independent agency. The Election Commission Executive Director serves at the will of the three Election Commissioners; Sandy Adams - elected, Susan Rogers - elected, and Wayne Vaden - clerk and recorder appointed. I told the employees that the best avenue for having their concerns addressed was through the Election Commissioners.

The employees put their specific concerns in writing, delivered them in person to the Election Commissioners and had the opportunity for a discussion. It has been two weeks since that discussion took place, the employees see no action being taken and have again contacted me. I have attached my own resume' so you could see that I have a thorough working knowledge of the Denver Election Commission on which to evaluate what the employee's are relaying to me. I worked at the Election Commission under the same Executive Director and under the same conditions. I have read through the employee four page list of concerns and know that the concerns can all be further substantiated and are in no way an exaggeration of the working conditions.

As always happens with badly managed agencies, the good employees resign. Recently this small agency lost two long term excellent management level employees who were no longer willing to tolerate the Executive Director. The Executive Director, Karon Hatchett, recruited a personal friend from her church, Anthony Rainey, for employment in the agency. Anthony Rainey has been elevated to a management position through a re-structuring that now has most of the agency directly reporting to him. He manages in much the same way as she does and has personally threatened employees. This has only compounded and exacerbated the problems. Additional long term experienced employees are actively seeking other employment, many of the employees are discussing a "blue flu" until the Executive Director and Anthony Rainey are removed from the Election Commission.

I bring this to your attention because I care very much about the agency and its employees. Denver must continue to conduct elections in a manner that assures public confidence in the accuracy, efficiency, and fairness of the outcomes. Under the current working conditions I believe that is becoming increasingly impossible.

*

E-mailed on August 1, 2005 at 11:29pm

To: Mr. Cole Finegan - City Attorney

Mr. Finegan,

Councilwoman Johnson told me this evening that Carrie Kellogg, Logistics Director, has now resigned from the election commission.

From my experience at the commission, I believe that there is absolutely NO way the current staff of the election commission can properly administer a November election.

I've attached a resume so you can see that I have a thorough knowledge of this agency. Also, I have copied below the text of a letter I handed to Mayor Hickenlooper 5 months ago. In the Mayor's files should be the 4 page employee grievance document that I attached to that letter. I can forward you a copy if the Mayor's office no longer has the document.

What to do now?

In my opinion the only way to save the November election is to:

1) Hire an Executive Director from the Secretary of States office, a nearby county or someone that has managerial experience and a thorough knowledge of the election process.

2) Hire someone with Absentee Ballot experience.

3) Hire someone with Logistics experience in confirming and setting up polling places.

4) Send the current Executive Director, Karon Hatchett, home as well as her "deputy", Anthony Rainey. This must be done even if the City has to pay their full salaries while they are forced to stay away from the election commission.

There is not a moment to lose.

Yes, the election is not until the first week of November but there are many many deadlines where mailings, early voting, etc. must occur. Unfortunately there is not the time to hire and train.

There are many many problems now occurring with "controls" at the Election Commission. Much of the work that has been done is inaccurate and will have to be re-done, and quickly.

I realize that the City Council, nor the Mayor or his Cabinet has any jurisdiction over this independent agency but somehow someway there must be a way for Denver to administer a fair, honest, accurate, and cost effective election in November.

I am very disappointed that the failure of the Commissioners and the Commission is being reported in the press. If the voters don't have full faith and confidence in the process I believe that to be a disaster.

If there is anything I can do to help in this effort please just let me know.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Larry King Bill Maher Gay Talk

Apparently, a part of this interview (outing of Ken Mehlman)was not shown on Larry King. Incidentally, Mehlman resigned today as Chairman of the GOP.

Sarah's Friday Pic - Refuses to Share Her Space with the Denver Election Commission (or the Hick!)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Referred Question 1A - Denver's Preschool Initiative - And, They're Still Counting

As of today, there is no final total on the vote for Denver's Referred Question 1A, that would raise Denver's sales tax by .12%.

The Rocky Mountain News reports that one of the machines utilized to count absentee ballots failed and, therefore, 40,000 absentee ballots remain to be counted.

1A, at this time, is ahead by about 590 votes. (Now, at 3:50 p.m. the lead has dropped to 293.) (Friday morning, 7:30 a.m. the lead has dropped to 255. It is reported that the automated counting of absentee ballots will, most likely, continue through the weekend.) (Okay, it's now 2:10 p.m. on Friday. The numbers haven't changed since I first looked at them at 7:30 a.m. today. Maybe another failure with the machine that reads the ballots? Maybe a "time out" for the DEC? Maybe we'll never know the final count.)

If memory serves, the organized support for 1A raised about $1.2Million for the campaign. There was no organized opposition.

About 65% of Denver voters actually cast ballots, and the latest figures I have on 1A show the following: 55,890 yea (50.27%) to 55,300 (49.73%) nay. At this time, a 590 vote lead for this ill-conceived boondoggle--supposing that it passes--does not speak well for either the popularity of the initiative or the snake oil advocacy of the initiative by Denver's mayor, John Hickenlooper.

More to come when the final count is, some day, completed. (And then, how can we be sure the final count is accurate, given the immensity of the Denver Election Commission's colossal failures this past Tuesday?) And, how many of Denver's citizens who may have opposed this initiative were disenfranchised by the DEC's incompetency?

We'll see...

P.S. If you wish to check the latest count from Denver, this site will provide those numbers...such as they are.

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.

Ed Stein's View - Rocky Mountain News - Denver's Election Debacle

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

CHAOS!

The Denver Post reports:

election 2006
CHAOS: Problems worsen, Dems seek voting extension
By George Merritt and Jeffrey Leib
Denver Post Staff Writer
Article Last Updated:11/07/2006 02:58:45 PM MST

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter stood in a long line at the Washington Park Recreation Center in Denver to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006. He arrived about 7:45 am and left at about 9:30 am after voting on computerized voting machines which contributed to the delay.

On a day already rife with computer glitches, long lines, and legal appeals to extend voting in Denver, provisional ballots are now running out at some Denver voting centers.

Westerly Creek, 8800 E. 28th Ave., ran out of provision ballots before noon, and as of 2 p.m., still had none. Voters who were seeking shorter lines arrived, and quickly the line grew to more than a hundred people long.

FairVoteColorado.org reported provisional ballot shortages at numerous other sites as well, including Glenarm Recreation Center, Park Hill Methodist, Manual High School, and Montbello Recreation Center.

Widespread computer problems were reported, some shutting down entire voting centers, but the problems appeared to ease after 2

Democratic party leaders are in court this afternoon, seeking a two-hour extension for voting in Denver, because many were kept from casting their vote.

Party spokesman Brian Mason said the motion was in response to "the huge problems in Denver this morning."

Democratic Party representatives came to Parkhill Methodist this afternoon to ask people standing in line if they would go downtown to testify in the court case seeking the extension.

Denver Election Commission spokesman Alton Dillard said there was no systemwide failures and that the delays were being caused by heavy voter turnout combined with "congestion" in the computer network used to confirm voter registeration. "it's our application. It got overloaded," Dillard said.

But voters experienced a wide range of problems, that began right when the polls opened at 7 a.m.

Officials at Manual High School said their computers had crashed three times today. They were running at 2:30, but more than 99 people were in line.

At lunch time, Denver voters waiting in line at the Botanic Gardens vote center were urged to go to Manual's site because the wait at the Gardens might be at least another hour.

When Kim Smith, one of the relocated voters, arrived at Manual, she found a long line that crawled for at least an hour just to get to the door to the school.

Once she got just inside, election officials said the voting process was stopping because of computer problems.

When officials tried to form two lines out of the one stalled line, people started yelling because it put some voters ahead of others who had waited longer, said Smith, who lives in Washington Park.

Election officials did not know how to handle the crowd, Smith said. Shortly after 1 p.m., Denver Police arrived to calm restive voters.

Earlier, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper emerged from inside the Manual voting site and said This can't happen again, recalled Smith, who finally voted around 1:30, nearly two hours after she arrived at the Denver school. NOTE TO HICK: IT SHOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED THIS TIME!

Vaishali Patel, who lives in Denver s Capitol Hill neighborhood, arrived at her voting center near East Eight Avenue and Downing Street after 11 a.m. and was told the wait would be two hours. She was urged to go to the Botanic Gardens site.

There, officials told her the wait also would be two hours and she was urged to go the Manual.

Like Smith, she arrived at the Denver school a little before noon and endured nearly two hours of lines moving in fits and starts before she reached the voting booth.

I feel like I have to; I made it this far, Patel said, when she was about 20 people away from the booth.

As of 2:15 p.m., the line at the Botanic Gardens was just as long as it was this morning, snaking down the street to 11th Ave.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter waited an hour and a half to vote at the Washington Park Recreational Center this morning. When he arrived at about 7:45 a.m., there were more than 150 people in line ahead of him. Several people said they were frustrated by the long lines. Paul Barsa, a 35-year-old who said he works in accounting, said he was "grouchy" and wished that he waited until the afternoon to vote.

Ritter said, "I hope that people will be patient. It's important for them to vote."

The Denver Election Commission reported that problems began right at 7 a.m. as computer problems at the voter-check in stations bogged down, creating a bottleneck in the first hour of voting as a rush to the polls overloaded the system.

Power failures slowed voting at some locations, commission spokesman Dillard said.

Voting machines had backup power and weren't affected, but laptop computers used to verify voter registration were knocked out, forcing workers to call the central office for the information, he said.

Mark Coles, a computer technician with the Denver Election Commission, said the election system had to be split onto three separate servers to handle the backlog.

"It's just like traffic on (Interstate) 25," Coles said. "It's as if we are building two more I-25s right next to it" to ease the traffic congestion.

But the fix did not come in time to help some voters who hoped to vote before heading to work.

At Denver Botanic Gardens, a line several hundred voters long stretched out of the gates and down the block more than half way to 11th Avenue.

"We will not get to vote today," said a frustrated Lauren Brockman as he left the Botanic Gardens.

He lined up at 6:45 a.m. hoping to beat the rush, only to stand in line for close to an hour before leaving.

But an hour wait was short, compared to some.

At Corona Presbyterian Church, voters were being told to expect about a two-hour wait as they snaked around the building.

"All my friends, I told them to vote between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.," said Rob Weil the election judge supervisor at Corona. "But if it keeps being this slow, this line will stay."

Several people left the line at Park Hill Methodist Church after they were told equipment was broken.

Lines of up to 300 people formed at some Denver polling places.

This is positively ridiculous, said 82-year-old Jack McCroskey, clutching his cane while waiting at the Washington Park polling place in southeast Denver. At 82, I don't deserve to have to stand out here. What if it had been 10 degrees today?"

Johnson Recreation Center at 4809 Race St. in Denver reported all its voting machines were down at 1:15 p.m.. "I'm just waiting on my IT man to call me back," said Nathan Martinez, the center's election supervisor. Service was restored by 1:45 p.m. During that time his line grew from just a handful to over a hundred.

Augustana Lutheran, 5000 E Alameda Ave., also reported its machines out of service at 1:15 p.m., with no estimated time for repair. By 1:50 p.m., a secretary said the machines were working but wasn't able to provide details.

As of 2 p.m., Tattered Cover Lodo's voting line was about an hour long, and machines were working.

At the Athmar Recreation Center in southwest Denver, polling station manager Frank Lujan said the voting computer system was down twice today, once for about 30 minutes and once for about 45 minutes. As of 2 p.m., the system was running and voters report wait times of about 45 minutes.

"Any time you have new technology you have challenges," Mayor John Hickenlooper said, at midday, just before the system began experiencing even wider outages. "We've got dozens of city employees out volunteering asking people if they want a lift to a vote center with a shorter line." Hickenlooper conceded the situation "is not good."

The problems weren't limited to Denver. On the Post's West Watch blog, Karen A. reported waiting two hours and 45 minutes in Parker at Southeast Christian Church. "Sometimes 10 of the 12 voting booths were unoccupied while voters were processed," she said.

In Douglas County, where wait times at some places extended to three hours, the Republican Party had not yet decided whether to file an injuction to keep the polls open, said spokesman Bryant Adams.

At 1:30 p.m., Secretary of State Gigi Dennis released a statement saying that things were going smoothly, statewide, and saying that voters should not count on the Denver court extending voting hours.

"Please do not depend on polls being kept open late," Dennis wrote. "If you are at the polls by 7 p.m. you will cast a ballot. All voters in line will be able to vote."

She advised voters to be prepared for an after-work surge at the polls.