Opinion | Susan Knopf: Keeping our election safe | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: Keeping our election safe

Last Saturday, I was poking around along the banks of the Blue River in Silverthorne. I was picking up trash, along with about 30 volunteers with the Blue River Watershed Group, Friends of the Lower Blue River, Gore Range Anglers Trout Unlimited and Friends of Dillon Ranger District.

Interesting finds: a melamine desk top and an entire camp situated under a willow bush, in the shade of Silverthorne Town Hall. The camp had been washed out, and all the supplies were sodden and moldy.

As I was hauling heavy wet debris out of the riverbed and up to the collection pile, my mind wandered to our Summit County Clerk and Recorder Kathy Neel.

Last weekend was also ballot certification weekend. At least it wasn’t a holiday weekend. Neel told me there was a Labor Day holiday that was also a ballot certification weekend. So while the rest of us were enjoying our barbecues, Neel was working, certifying the ballot.

Ballot certification is one of those very detailed government operations, we don’t see, and don’t care about unless it doesn’t go right. Neel is very proud her office staff consistently delivers for voters. Neel has not faced an election challenge in her 13 year tenure.

The Denver Post reports three Colorado clerk and recorders are under investigation for possible election security protocol breach. According to Kyle Clark of 9News Denver, there are “eight known (Colorado) election security breaches since 2020, by people who were searching for evidence of voter fraud.”

Neel is “disappointed” how some people can continue to believe the process could be rigged in any way.

“In order for an election to be rigged there would have to be a huge bipartisan conspiracy,” said Neel.

She explains bipartisan teams of election judges, “basically run the election, they tabulate the ballots, signature verification, adjudication, determine if a voter turned in only one ballot, determine whether a voter turned in a Republican or Democratic ballot, and maintain voter secrecy.”

I asked Neel how the judges maintain voter secrecy and verify so much data. With sheets of paper, she demonstrated how the judges turn down the opening of the envelope to get the information, while covering up parts of the envelope, to protect the privacy of every voter.

“You really shouldn’t write on the ballot,” said Neel.

She says people do. She recalled one person wrote they didn’t like any of the candidates running, but in so doing wrote through the bubbles, and thus voted.

Some Republican friends have expressed concern about the separation of the envelopes and the ballots. Neel explained that the envelopes are counted and the ballots are counted. The counts must agree. Ballots are batched daily beginning fifteen days before election day, per state law. Each batch goes into a sealed box.

The ballots are scanned by machines. Before any actual ballot is scanned, the machines are checked with test ballots, and judges check the machines are properly zeroed. Machine counts must agree with hand counts of ballots.

Bottom line there is no evidence of election fraud in the 2020 Summit County election, nor any Summit County election in 13 years. Mike Tabb, a registered Republican, has been an election judge for four years. He says in his experience Summit County elections are run “ethically” and “all votes are counted.”

It’s interesting that people persist in doubting the election results. More than 60 courts, some led by Trump appointed judges, have found no evidence of widespread election fraud. Some fear seeding doubt about something so well adjudicated is intended to overturn our democracy in the next election. That’s scary speculation, scarier if it’s true.

“We have all the ballots,” says Neel. If there is ever a question about an election result, Neel says, “We can recreate the election.” She says ballots are retained for 25 months, but the electronic record is kept forever.

For the record, I rest easier knowing Kathleen Neel is at the helm, managing our elections. If you’d like to see how the process works, you can attend the public logic and accuracy test at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 18, at the Clerk’s office in Breckenridge. It’s open to the public. Kathy says her staff loves to answer questions.

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