Election 2016

Denver Democrats Worry About Lack of Voting Machines In Key Neighborhoods

As the city moves from precincts to vote centers, will Tuesday's voters be accommodated?

Democrats in Denver are worried that their top local election official—who is running for county commisioner as a Republican—is not planning to deploy enough voting machines to easily accommodate polling place voters on Tuesday, particularly in racially mixed areas where Democrats are expected to do well.

“The bottom line is that she has the additional machines,” said John Buckley, Arapahoe County Democratic Chair, referring to Nancy Doty, Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder since 2004. “And her staff has more or less admitted that with one or two exceptions, all of the places that we are asking her to add additional machines she’s got the space. She’s just putting her foot down and saying ‘No, we’re not going to do this.’”

Colorado is a presidential swing state. For the first time in a presidential election, the county where Denver is located will be asking voters to come to one of 32 neighborhood vote centers, instead of more than 200 precincts. Buckley said there was no reliable way to estimate Tuesday’s voter turnout, but some locations in neighborhoods with a higher percentage of non-white voters could be disproportionately impacted.

“They are certainly districts that are considerably more diverse than districts where we feel the machines are plentiful,” he said. “She has a turnout model. OFA [Obama for America] had a turnout model. And in many respects they are very similar, but in others they are very different with the potential for two-hour long waits at some of those centers, and frankly ones that we think are better performing districts for us.”

Doty promptly returned AlterNet’s call, saying the machine allocations were not final.

“I am looking at it. I am adding a machine here or there. It’s nothing substantial,” she said, adding her office has “analyzed how many machines to put in each location.”

Buckley was hoping Doty’s office might “err on the side of caution” and deploy another 50 machines across the county, primarily focusing on 11 vote center locations. In two locations, he wanted to see three or four additional machines.

Doty said that she would do more—but not everything that was being requested.

“We aren’t talking a substantial number,” Doty said. “We are limited by space available… I am looking at it. And doing what I can.”  

Buckley said Doty’s latest comments were the first from her since late last week.

“We have no empirical model for voter turnout at these vote center locations,” he said. “Our position is where she has the machines and space, she should err on the side of caution to prevent what happened in Columbus, Ohio, in 2004.”

(Editor's note: A day after this story was published, Buckley e-mailed AlterNet to say that Doty had just informed him that her office would be allocating an additional 20 voting machines to 9 vote center locations.)

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

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