Report: Coffman, voting machine maker hired same consultant
DENVER – Consultants running Secretary of State Mike Coffman’s congressional campaign also worked for a voting machine manufacturer when Coffman approved the company’s equipment, the Rocky Mountain News reported Thursday.Premier Election Solutions was the only one of four voting machine companies to have all its equipment conditionally approved for use in 2008 elections.An attorney involved in litigation over voting machines and a public-interest advocate accused Coffman of a conflict of interest.Coffman denied that Premier got special consideration.”There was absolutely no outside influences that affected any of my decisions on the vendors,” he said.Premier, formerly known as Diebold Election Systems, hired Highlands Ranch-based Phase Line Strategies in September to lobby on its behalf, the News reported.Coffman said he hired Phase Line to run his congressional campaign in November but had been talking to the company since the summer.Paul Hultin, an attorney for voters who filed a lawsuit over electronic voting machines, called Coffman and Premier’s work with the same firm “an outrageous conflict of interest.”Hultin’s lawsuit prompted the review process that culminated Monday in Coffman’s order decertifying three manufactures but recertifying Premier.Claudia Kuhns, executive director of the Voter Integrity Project advocacy group, said the revelation shows the certification process “was politically capricious.””When you have a situation where there’s the appearance of impropriety, it really causes one to be completely distrustful of the entire process,” she said.Mike Ciletti, who handled Premier’s lobbying for Phase Line, said the two companies were treated like all the other vendors”We received the same cold shoulder that all of the clerks and vendors received throughout this process,” Ciletti said. “Folks are on a witch hunt looking for excuses, and they need to be focused on fair and accurate elections.”Premier spokesman Chris Riggall said the company learned Wednesday about Phase Line’s connection to Coffman and immediately terminated its own relationship with the company.”That was certainly news to us and of great concern to us,” he said.Coffman’s testing board recommended that all the electronic equipment be decertified, including Premier’s. But Coffman used his discretion to decide which systems were “substantially compliant.”He said he approved Premier’s systems with conditions because their problems were not serious.
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