denver & the west | election 2006

Lawsuit over electronic voting threatened


By George Merritt

Denver Post Staff Writer


A local law firm announced Tuesday it is planning a lawsuit to block nine counties and the state from using electronic voting machines.


Counties across the state have spent the past year scrambling to purchase new voting machines in order to comply with state and federal laws.


The federal Help America Vote Act requires every polling place to be accessible for people with disabilities.


But lawyers with Wheeler Trigg Kennedy LLP said the new machines are unreliable and violate the state Constitution.


"Colorado and its counties are being rushed into purchasing these risky systems for use in the 2006 elections in the mistaken belief that they are required by the Help America Vote Act ...," the firm said in a release. "In addition to being insecure and easily compromised by hacking, the contested (machines) have a history of operational problems that have disrupted elections across the country."


The secretary of state's office as well as Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas, Jefferson, La Plata, Larimer and Weld counties will be defendants, on behalf of "a diverse, nonpartisan group of Colorado voters," according to the release.


A spokeswoman for the firm said the group wanted to wait until the suit is filed on Thursday to discuss specifics.


County clerks and recorders and the secretary of state have been working to certify and order electronic machines to avoid lawsuits from the federal government. Three companies - Diebold Election Systems, Sequoia Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic - were certified.


In March, the Department of Justice sued the state of New York for failing to comply with HAVA.


The secretary of state's spokeswoman, Dana Williams, said she could not comment on a suit that has not been filed. But Adams County Clerk and Recorder Carol Snyder said clerks are trapped in the middle of threatened lawsuits.


"I think it is very, very clear," Snyder said. "I think what we have to do is just proceed with what we know our obligations are under state and federal law."


Wheeler Trigg Kennedy attorney Paul Hultin sent letters to several county clerks in the past few weeks warning them of the possible suit.


Attorney General John Suthers' office sent a letter dated Sunday to Hultin, telling him that the state could not respond to the "vague claims" of Hultin's "unnamed clients."


"While it is clear from your letter that your clients have concerns ... until we have some idea of the specific nature of these concerns, we cannot begin to respond to them," Assistant Attorney General Monica Márquez wrote.


Staff writer George Merritt can be reached at 303-820-1657 or


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