Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall says a new system for numbering ballots would preserve voter anonymity as well as efficiency in tallying election results, and she expects it to pass muster with the Secretary of State’s Office. However, election integrity activists say any “distinguishing marks” on ballots violate the law and open the door to linking individual voters with their ballots. The group Citizen Center has filed a request for a restraining order in federal court to stop the printing of Boulder County’s ballots with distinguishing serial numbers. A hearing on the request is scheduled for Sept. 21. Like other counties who use the Hart Voting System, Boulder County’s ballots have three sets of numbers and bar codes — one that identifies the election, one that identifies the precinct and ballot content (which jurisdictions and ballot questions the voter is voting on) and one that identifies the ballot.
Until recently, every Boulder County ballot had a unique number that distinguished it from every other ballot. That number made it easy for election workers to retrieve a specific ballot if it wouldn’t scan properly or had over- or undervotes that needed to be assessed manually. However, election integrity activists contended that through comparisons with voter rolls, those unique numbers could reveal how individual voters voted.
Citizen Center, an election integrity advocacy group, filed suit in federal court to block the printing of ballots with unique numbers. In an attempt to resolve the issue, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler issued an emergency ruling earlier this year that prohibited any identifying markings on ballots. Two other counties — Chaffee and Eagle– complied, but Hall offered another solution.