RG County holds work session on Dominion Voting System update

Photo by Lyndsie Ferrell Rio Grande County Board of Commissioners hosted an informational work session on an update to the Dominion Voting System currently used at the county for elections. Rio Grande County Clerk Cindy Hill explained the contract renewal with Dominion and the steps she takes to ensure secure elections within the county.

RIO GRANDE COUNTY - For the past several weeks, Rio Grande County Clerk and Recorder Cindy Hill has been speaking with Rio Grande County commissioners regarding an update to current elections systems used in Rio Grande County and after the approval to move forward with the update, commissioners requested a work session to answer questions.

Rio Grande County uses Dominion Voting Systems to count ballots and has passed every audit required by the State of Colorado since the voting system installation in 2017.

There was some expectation that a Dominion representative would be at the work session, but according to RG County Administrator Skip Schoen, “they not able to make our chosen time fit with their schedule.” Schoen conveyed this in an email to Valley Publishing.

The purpose of the work session, Shoen explained, with the commissioners was to provide them with information on the upgrade to version 5.17 of the Dominion Democracy Suite.  The commissioners and the public were provided a Dominion document describing the product changes included with the system upgrade to version 5.17.

According to Hill the upgrade is to the existing contract and is a first amendment to the original contract signed March 31, 2017. No new equipment is being added, no programming changes have been made since 2017.

The contract renewal approved by commissioners will include new equipment and improved software scheduled to be installed in July.

Hill also explained that the new software and equipment must undergo the Logic and Accuracy Testing (LAT) and pass all Colorado State requirements before it is used in the election this fall.

During the testing LAT, judges mark 25 ballots each, all voting combinations are run, all ballot marking devices must be tested and the results are hand counted to confirm accuracy. If there are any errors detected or found the process is repeated until 100 percent accuracy is confirmed.

During the meeting, Rio Grande County commissioners heard from six experts, three representing each side of the conversation, those for and against the use of Dominion Voting Systems. Each person had a five-minute time limit beginning with those against the use of Dominion.

Dr. Walter Daugherty, an expert in Computer Science and Professor Emeritus at Texas A&M University was the first to speak. He asked commissioners to consider seven questions as they gained more information on the Dominion Voting System.

Daugherty was a co-author for the Mesa County Report Number 3 which found the Dominion Voting System created unauthorized databases and deleted election records. Daugherty continued stating that the first question that needed to be asked was whether or not these issues had been addressed and corrected by Dominion.

Throughout the rest of Daugherty’s comments, he highlighted other potential issues posed by the voting system and said Dominion Voting Systems tested in Texas were tested twice and failed both times by the Secretary of State.

Next to speak against the Dominion Voting System was Ret. Air Force Col. Shawn Smith, a former senior military evaluator for Space, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems under Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT and E) Office of the Secretary of Defense.

“I want to address and focus on the election systems that you have in your county. The voting systems are not made here. The problems with the voting systems nationwide are the same and from the same sources,” said Smith. Smith said that the voting system used by the county was insecure, though it passed all testing done in compliance with state regulations. “These systems are not secure.”

Smith was followed by IT expert Mark Cook who spoke about how hard it was for the general public to understand how these systems work and that he has been working on the Dominion Voting Systems for four decades. Cook said there are concerns about Dominion’s inability to conform to basic transparency regulations by potentially covering up several errors throughout their use in counties around the country.

Those who spoke for the use of Dominion were from the Colorado County Clerk Association (CCCA), including Executive Director Matt Crance, Weld County Clerk Carly Koppes, and Jackson County Clerk and President of the CCCA, Haley Johnson.

Johnson was the first to speak stating, “The CCCA is comprised of all 64 county clerks in the State of Colorado and a four-member executive board. We are very active in the proposed changes to elections, motor vehicle and other services throughout the state.”

Johnson explained the purpose of the CCCA. The Colorado County Clerks Association is a non-governmental entity and includes in its membership the 64 County Clerks of Colorado and their designees. County clerks are elected through a vote of the residents of the county they serve, or they are appointed by the city council.

Next to speak was Weld County Clerk Koppes. “All the mail ballot envelopes go through signature verification, and as you all are very well aware, in-person voting is still available. Only 6 percent of voters in Colorado actually use that option, so we listen to our voters. We are all paper ballot here in Colorado for those who have expressed that concern.”

After Koppes, CCCA executive Director Crane finished the meeting by answering some of the questions raised during the conversation including whether the CCCA maintained election records to which he responded, “Yes, absolutely, one hundred percent, yes.”

Koppes said that it was not required by the state to maintain the operating system logs and that wireless devices on voting systems components are not illegal regardless of what other experts may have to say.

At the end of the presentations, Rio Grande County Commissioner Scott Deacon said that he voted against the renewal of the Dominion Voting System because of the discrepancies.

“If Dominion is selling this product, then where are they,” he asked.

Commissioner Gene Glover said that he also had more questions than answers.

“We are blessed to have Cindy; we all know that. I have some concerns about Dominion overall,” he said.

Rio Grande County Administrator Schoen in closing reminded everyone “this was an informational work session to obtain additional information for the county commissioner.”