Colorado’s third risk-limiting audit

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams today kicked off the state’s third risk-limiting audit for the 2018 midterm elections, which he said will “provide a level of assurance” to voters.

Campaign finance director Steve Bouey draws a dice from Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, bottom photo,and then rolls it. The number was used to generate a random seed for election officials auditing their ballots.

“It is a big deal. The people need to know that the results are accurate and they need to have confidence in that so that they have respect for the government that is elected,” Williams said.

“It is also to instill a sense of civic engagement in people so that they believe there is a reason to vote because their votes are counted accurately.”

The vast majority of counties, 58 to be exact, will be conducting a comparison audit. This involves examining and verifying ballots pulled in close races to provide statistical proof that the outcome of the election is correct.

Last week, the Secretary of State staff met to choose which races to audit. Among these races are county clerk contests, mayoral elections and the first statewide race in Colorado to go through the process: the bid for attorney general between Republican George Brauchler and Democrat Phil Weiser, the victor.

Alton Dillard with Denver Elections throws the dice as Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams looks on. It’s part of the process to conduct a risk-limiting audit. (SOS photo)

Williams explained the number of ballots pulled depends upon the number of ballots cast and the margin. A random seed, which is a number consisting of at least 20 digits, was created by sequential rolls of 20 individual 10-sided dice. This number is used to determine which specific ballots will be pulled in each race to compare with the election results.

Members of the public were randomly selected to roll the dice.

A number of out-of-state observers were in attendance, including Michigan election officials who are planning to implement a RLA in their state next month.

The observers then visited Denver Elections where they saw the RLA first hand, as Denver’s ballots being pulled and compared to the paper record.

To see the comparison audit data and reports, check out the Audit Center.

Denver’s Amber McReynolds to take on a new election role

Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Denver Elections director Amber McReynolds, who will be assuming a new kind of election role this month.

Denver ‘s elections director Amber McReynolds announced last week that she will be resigning her post to take on a new role as the executive director of the National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition. McReynolds has served in the City & County of Denver Clerk & Recorder office for the last 13 years, and the last seven as the director of elections.

During her tenure, she has overseen pivotal elections for the city of Denver and developed innovative techniques in election administration which earned the office numerous awards. McReynolds is most proud of Denver’s first-in-the-nation innovations Ballot TRACE and eSign which have both been adopted by other counties throughout the country.

Since Ballot TRACE was implemented in 2009, around 200,000 voters have started to use this customer service application to track their ballots and receive updates on the election, she said.  As a result, visibility of the election process has increased and Denver Elections has experienced a 90 percent reduction in calls, McReynolds said.

“I have been blessed to lead an incredible and talented team at Denver elections to transform the office into an exceptional office that is now nationally and internationally recognized,” McReynolds said in a video the office released when she announced her resignation. “Serving the city I love in a field that I am deeply passionate about is what has made my time here so special and inspirational.”

Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson thanked McReynolds for her service and dedication to Denver elections in a recent news release.

“Amber played a critical role in modernizing the election model in Colorado along with many efficiencies and innovations for Denver. We will miss her and her visionary leadership, and wish her the best of luck in her new endeavor,” Johnson said.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams noted that McReynolds is recognized nationally for her efforts.

National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition (NVAHI) focuses on removing barriers to voter participation by encouraging states to adopt a Vote at Home System or universal vote by mail. Moreover, NVAHI believes that “nothing is as fundamental — or as foundational — to the success of our country, as ensuring that when elections happen, as many votes as possible can and do participate.”

McReynolds will leave Denver Elections on Aug 15, but plans to be based in Denver for her new job.

Another election, another risk limiting audit for Colorado’s county clerks

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams watches Friday as two staffers with Denver Elections, Drake Rambke, and Stuart Clubb, indicate where ballots were pulled as part of a risk-limiting audit to ensure machines correctly tabulated the way a voter marked a ballot. (SOS photo)

For the second election in a row, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has overseen a risk-limiting audit designed to catch mistakes if they happened when ballots were tabulated.

The audit of the June 26 primary election involved 20, 10-sided dice, a variety of election officials from across the nation and Colorado county clerks excited to proclaim their results on social media.

Rudy Santos, chief deputy clerk for the Weld County clerk’s offices, watches as election judges Stacey Kjeldgaard, left, a Republican, and Lyn Nelson, a Democrat, conduct their risk-limiting audit in Weld County on Saturday. (SOS photo)

“WooHoo!! Jeffco Risk-Limiting Audit completed!! 263 (ballots) with NO discrepancies!” the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s office tweeted Saturday.

“The purpose for all this is so the voters can have trust and confidence in the system,” Williams said.

“There are some people who go into denial whenever they don’t win. ‘Everybody I talked to voted for me. How can I possibly not have won?’ This is part of providing that assurance to folks.”

Some counties are still in the midst of their audits, while others completed theirs last week.

Read moreAnother election, another risk limiting audit for Colorado’s county clerks

Elections guru praises Colorado’s methods

David Becker, right, with the center for Election Innovation and Research, was in Colorado one week ago for the primary election. In January, Becker attended the Colorado County Clerks Association Conference with Dwight Shellman, left, of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, and Jennifer Morrell, formerly the election director at the Arapahoe County Clerk’s office and now a consultant with Democracy Fund. (SOS photo)

Colorado received high praise from election security guru David Becker, who was in Colorado to observe the primary election one week ago.

Becker, the founder and director of Election Innovation & Research, wrote about what he observed in his blog.

“It was a great opportunity to watch professionals in their environment and see how their work isn’t static,” Becker said. “They are constantly seeking improvements in security and efficiency.”

This was the first time in Colorado history that unaffiliated voters were allowed to automatically participate.

“David asked to observe Colorado’s primary election to get a better sense of the security protocols we utilize and see our election in practice, Judd Choate, Colorado state elections director said. “We were happy to host him.”

Becker spent the day between the Secretary of State’s office and Denver Elections. He observed how a ballot is received and tabulated in Denver, and noted how calm the process is because most Coloradans vote by mail.

At the Secretary of State’s office, Becker witnessed information sharing about potential cyber threats throughout the day.

“Colorado and Denver County are at the leading edge of blending efficiency, convenience, and security for voters,” he said. “Even in the face of significant threats from foreign countries and others, thanks to examples like those in Colorado and Denver County – and many other places – election cybersecurity is improving substantially and will continue to improve through 2018 and 2020.”

Denver clerk eclipses previous records

Celebrating 2017 National Voter Registration Day at Civic Center Park were, from left to right, Alton Dillard, spokesman for Denver Elections; former Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson; Suzanne Staiert, deputy secretary of state; and Debra Johnson, Denver clerk and recorder. They were in front of Denver’s new mobile voting center, listed as one of the office highlights for last year. (SOS photo/Julia Sunny)

Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson commandeered last year’s eclipse to highlight her 2017 annual report that looks at elections, marriage licenses and other clerk functions.

“A large swath of the U.S. viewed the totality of the solar eclipse last year, and here at the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, our accomplishments in 2017 eclipsed all previous years,” Johnson said in news release issued today.

“With the incredible growth in Denver, we’ve seized opportunities to lead the way in elections, records preservation, marriages and bringing our services directly to you.”

Read moreDenver clerk eclipses previous records