06 November 2007

Denver Elections Still Troubled; Rocky Confused

The Rocky has the half accurate story.

The true part:

About 20 on-call SWAT officers arrived at the election offices after 10 p.m.. Election officials say there are still 17,000 or so ballots to count. . . . The election volunteers who had counted ballots all day left for home.

The votes have been counted at a snail's pace all evening, and election officials said earlier this evening they weren't sure whether they would finish.

The city elections office released the latest figures at 9:16 p.m. At that point, they had counted 71,225 ballots. It appears that close to 90,000 Denver residents voted in this election, or about 43 percent - about 10 percent more than election officials had anticipated. . . . Stephanie O'Malley . . . is Denver's clerk and recorder, in charge of elections. She was elected in a special balloting after the debacle in counting.

Besides the slow counting, for most of the night, Denver was having trouble posting the results on its web site.

While the city had promised the initial results from the mail-in balloting at 7 p.m. — as soon as the polls officially closed — it was after 8 p.m. before any vote numbers showed up on the election web site.

The false part:

Few expect turnout this year to top 40 percent because there were no high-profile ballot issues or contests, such as last year's governor's race, to lure voters.

In 2005, for instance, when voters were asked to decide a major change in how the state collects and uses their tax dollars, turn out hit 40.1 percent, even though it was an off year. "That was unprecedented," said Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the secretary of state.

Don't count me in that number. Coolidge has it wrong. I looked at the historical numbers for odd numbered year November elections in Denver and couldn't find a year in recent history when the turnout wasn't in the 40s percentagewise. The 43% estimated turnout this year is eminently typical for an odd numbered year November election.

The Denver Clerk and Recorder's office had already reported 34% turnout this morning, before anyone dropped off ballots on election day. I made a low end estimate of 13,000 more ballots on election day, and the actual appears to have been closer to 17,000 election day ballots.

This was not a long ballot and was designed to be optically scanned. About 79% of the ballots to be counted were in hand before election day even started. There is no good reason that vote counting should go at a snail's pace in an election like this one, and no good reason that the elections division should experience server crash every time they hold an election.

No comments: