Analysis

Denver Pilot Project Offers a Learning Opportunity for Election Officials

The Denver Elections Division offered officials from around the country a rare opportunity to observe innovative voting technology and processes in action during an election. The pilot project, held during the May 5, 2015, municipal election, allowed observers to try new voting equipment, watch voters use the machines, and tour the ballot processing and tabulating center.

Denver adopted the new election technologies partly to reduce the complexity of its election administration. Elections officials replaced the old system, which required three vendors and seven databases, with a single database that powers all voting and counting processes. The new system can generate multiple ballot styles—military and overseas, mail, and digital—tabulate votes, and analyze ballots with unclear markings, over-votes—when a person casts more than one vote in a single contest—and write-in candidates.

The system, which uses commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, including tablets, scanners, and printers, is not yet certified by the Colorado secretary of state for use in statewide elections. Nevertheless, officials from counties across the state attended the May 5 event to learn about the new technologies as well as other innovations, such as modified ballot designs that are more intuitive; user-friendly instructions for mail-ballot envelopes; online tracking of mail ballots; and a ballot-sorting machine that enhances anonymity in the elections process by digitally capturing then using a laser to remove voters’ signatures from mail-ballot envelopes.

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