http://origin.denverpost.com/lacrosse/ci_7394285

The Denver Post

11/07/2007

 

9,800 votes left in Denver

 

By Kieran Nicholson and Chuck Plunkett

 

 

Patricia Nelson, one of the ballot processors, collects ballots at the Denver elections office at 10:30 a.m. today, Nov. 7, 2007. (THE DENVER POST | JOHN PRIETO)

 

Workers were still counting ballots this morning at the Denver election office. (THE DENVER POST | JOHN PRIETO)

 

Denver election officials said this afternoon they had 9,800 ballots still to count after at least 90,000 of the mail-in ballots were collected. Newly elected clerk and recorder Stephanie O'Malley said she hoped to have the votes counted tonight, but didn't promise that the process won't extend into tomorrow.

 

Part of the problem, O'Malley said, was that the machines which read the ballots kicked back nearly 5,000 ballots because of erased and redrawn votes. Those ballots have to examined by officials and, by law, the voter's intent has to be determined and entered into a new ballot that can then be fed into the machine.

 

Officials had expected about 35 percent voter turnout and instead say about 47 percent of eligible voters turned in ballots.

 

Late last night, about 20 members of Denver's SWAT team were called in to relieve volunteers who were too tired to go on counting.

 

The city uses police officers to fill in because they already have the necessary background clearance to step right in and start counting.

 

O'Malley said there was no snafu in counting the votes, but there was a tech-services problem in posting the results to an election website.

 

She also said about a quarter of the 90,000 votes cast were not turned in until Tuesday, which delayed the counting. She said it also takes longer to tally mail-in ballots than the traditional kind.

 

Volunteers and city officials worked through the night to count results, O'Malley said.

 

"We have been here in excess of 24 hours," O'Malley said. "That is just part of this business. It is the nature of the beast."

 

With the 79,000 ballots tallied as of about 5 a.m today, Denver's $500 million infrastructure bond and tax-increase initiative appeared to be heading toward passage. The closest among the nine questions in the package was 1H, $70 million for new construction of cultural facilities. It appeared to be passing by a small margin.

 

It was the second time in a year that Denver voters

Workers were still counting ballots this morning at the Denver election office. (THE DENVER POST | JOHN PRIETO)

had to wait to hear the outcome of an election. In November 2006, it took nine days to count the ballots because of computer glitches and other problems.

 

Denver's problems last November, which forced some voters to wait hours in line, led to an overhaul of the elections office and landed the city and county of Denver on the secretary of state's "watch list." O'Malley was first appointed and then elected to the clerk and recorder's job after her predecessor resigned amid the overhaul.

 

Despite this year's delays, O'Malley said the reforms have improved Denver elections.

 

Susan Rogers, who was a member of the Denver Election Commission before it was disbanded as one of the reforms, said mail ballots have slowed counting before.

 

"You can only county a thousand ballots an hour on a good day," she said.

 

"Maybe now (Denver residents) will understand that the process, itself, is misunderstood and the expectations are unrealistic," Rogers said.

 

Four other counties on the secretary of state's watch list Douglas, Montrose, Pueblo and Routt reported no serious problems Tuesday.

 

Election results were delayed for a Mesa County school district race when a corrupted computer disk returned inconsistent results, forcing election officials to recount the ballots.

 

"We saved the results to a floppy disk that didn't read right," said elections chief Sheila Reiner. "It was a bum computer disk."

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Kieran Nicholson: 303-954-1822 or knicholson@denverpost.com.

 

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