Castle Pines North residents wait in long lines at the Community Center to cast ballots on November 7. Douglas County is now on the Colorado Secretary of State’s Election Watch List due to long wait times at polls. (Photo by Tim Gamble.)
by Lane Roberts
On November 7, 2006, voters in Castle Pines North (CPN) and throughout Douglas County experienced hours and hours of waiting to cast election ballots.
In fact, on Election Day, Douglas County residents stood in lines for more than six hours to cast votes. Residents voting at the CPN Community Center also experienced wait times in excess of two to three hours. According to Secretary of State Mike Coffman, the last vote cast in Douglas County was at 1 a.m.
Secretary Coffman recently placed Douglas County on the state’s “Election Watch List.” This list was created for counties that have experienced significant problems in conducting elections.
According to a letter sent to Douglas County officials dated March 12, “State statute requries all counties using electronic or electromechanical voting systems to have one voting booth per 400 registered electors.”
The County reported being in compliance with state law and reported one machine for every 432 voters. The letter continues, “The County did not use a hybrid system of paper ballots and voting machines whereby creating a greater ratio of machines to voters when technical failures occurred on a machine.”
The letter further states that the clerk inadequately calculated the time needed for a voter to cast their ballot which futher added to the already “disporportionately long lines.”
Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith created an Elections Fact-Finding Panel and began meetings immediately following the November election.
The Panel plans to present recommendations and findings to the Douglas County Commissioners on April 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Commissioner’s Hearing Room, 100 Third Street, in Castle Rock. The meeting is open to the public.
“While the details of the plan will be presented on April 10th, all on the Panel agreed that the number one problem for Douglas County was that of capacity,” said Arrowsmith. “I have every confidence in the Douglas County elections staff to implement the findings of the Panel and provide the citizens of Douglas County with the nearly flawless elections they have
historically received and should expect.”
Secretary Coffman has required Douglas County to examine processes associated with the distribution of voting equipment, as well as the number of locations used as polling places. The detailed plan must include measures the County is implementing to ensure acceptable voter wait time.
According to the Attorney General’s office, the Secretary of State has the legal authority to seek a court order to oversee a county’s elections. If a county fails to address the deficiencies that placed it on the Election Watch List, Coffman will supervise the next election.
Secretary Coffman’s goals are to make sure that the problems in Douglas County are corrected, as well as instituting an enhanced training program to help prevent problems from occurring in the future. “With this Election Watch List in place, the Secretary of State’s office can work with counties in a collaborative manner to correct their problems to avoid the drastic step of court-ordered supervision of elections,” said Coffman. “This policy is meant to be helpful, not punitive.”
To learn more about the Douglas County Elections Panel, please visit their web site: http://www.douglas.co.us/clerk/electionspanel/index.html.