Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall
Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall

Citing what they believe are irregularities in the way Boulder County counts its ballots, a majority of the county's canvass board refused Monday to certify the 2012 election.

The 4-3 vote does not have an immediate impact on the election. The results still will be sent to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, along with a report from the majority -- made up of the Republican and American Constitution Party canvass board members -- about their concerns.

The decision makes Boulder County the only one of Colorado's 64 counties not to certify its election results, said Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert, who attended the meeting.

Staiert said the Secretary of State's Office will review the complaints and determine whether any of them merit further investigation. However, if none of the issues raised by the canvass board members would change the outcome of a race, the investigation would focus more on improving procedures for future elections.

"I am disappointed because I feel all the information is there to certify, and we have gone over the data and the exceptions," Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall said.

Hall said none of the county's races, including the very close election in Erie in which a ballot measure to fund a new police station was defeated, are in question.

In a report to Secretary of State Scott Gessler, the members who voted not to certify pointed to concerns about the signature verification process and said thousands of ballots may have been improperly accepted or rejected.

In particular, they raised concerns about the speed with which some teams reviewed signatures and with new computer equipment designed to facilitate the process.

Hall said the people reviewing the signatures have a lot of experience, and incorrect signatures are usually very obvious. However, it's not the job of the canvass board to look at election procedures.

"They were looking for reasons not to certify the election," Hall said. "It's disappointing that the issues they focused on were outside the purview of the canvass board."

Bigger picture

But Russ Boehm, a Republican member of the canvass board who voted against certification, said the board has an obligation to consider the entire election.

"When you're being asked to certify a piece of work, it's very hard to overlook these issues," he said.

The board members opposed to certification also raised concerns that, in several precincts, more ballots were counted than were cast.

Hall said that happened because some polling places served multiple precincts, and some voters were accidentally given ballots for other precincts. When their ballots were counted in the appropriate precincts, that created the appearance of extra ballots.

The canvass board members who voted not to certify the results were American Constitution Party members Mary Eberle and James Remmert and Republican Party members Boehm and Daniel Martin. They said they had not been given enough information to know the cause of the discrepancies, though they do not believe any of the race results should change.

Democratic Party canvass board members Paul Geissler and Patricia Feeser, along with Hall, a Democrat, voted to certify the results.

Both Democratic members of the canvass board praised Hall both for the conduct of the election and for her willingness to provide information in response to questions.

"There is a reasonable explanation," he said. "It's a human process, and Election Day is a long day."

Mandated by law

Colorado law specifies that canvass boards reconcile the ballots cast in each county's elections to confirm that the number of ballots counted doesn't exceed the number of ballots cast. The boards also are charged with reconciling the ballots cast in each of the county's precincts, to confirm that the number of ballots cast doesn't exceed the number of registered electors in the precinct.

State law also says canvass boards shall certify the abstract of votes cast in each election and transmit that certification to the secretary of state. But it also says that when a majority of the board members are unable to certify the abstract, "for any reason," the board shall transmit the non-certified abstract to the secretary of state, along with a written report detailing the reason for non-certification.

Longmont Times-Call Staff Writer John Fryar contributed to this report.