BOULDER — When Boulder County Democrats consider whether to support incumbent Linda Salas or challenger Hillary Hall for county clerk next week, they’ll be deciding a referendum on four years of advances in voting technology.
Salas, who won the seat in 2002, says she ushered the office into the 21st century by doing away with the county’s aging punch-card voting machines and introducing a $3.1 million electronic voting system to comply with rigid federal mandates.
Hall, who sat on a committee that investigated the county’s election department after its new voting equipment rejected thousands of ballots on Election Night 2004, says she entered the race because Salas did not take the panel’s recommendations seriously.
“We had serious problems, and people want them fixed,” Hall said. “The trajectory is for ’06 and ’08 to look like ’04, unless we make a change.”
Whoever wins the Aug. 8 primary will run unopposed for the seat in November.
Hall, who led the Boulder County Democrats for three years, said serving on the panel that probed the 2004 election cycle — which climaxed with a 68-hour tally in the general election — taught her about the intricacies of voting systems and election planning.
If elected, Hall’s plans for the office include enacting more strenuous procedures for auditing machines that count ballots and their performance during the election.
She also wants to return to precinct-level ballot counts, rather than using the central counting system introduced by Salas.
The former party leader won 69 percent support in a vote at the Democrats’ county assembly in May, while Salas squeaked by with 31 percent.
A candidate must garner 30 percent support to make the primary ballot.
Despite the assembly results, Salas said she doesn’t feel like an underdog. She has more experience, having worked as a clerk in Boulder at the municipal or county level since 1988, and knows how to run the departments that record documents and issue vehicle registrations.
She said she is working to improve the facility where election machines are stored and where votes are tallied on Election Night. She also hopes to launch a program that would stream live ballot tallies online as votes are counted.
When the two debated at a Boulder luncheon Friday afternoon, Salas played up her plans for the next four years despite nagging audience questions about the voting system she assembled in the past four.
“People have a right to be concerned,” she said after the debate. “For 20-something years, the punch-card system has had to be in place. In the last three years, we’ve had to replace the punch-card system and go with federally mandated equipment.”
Brad Turner can be reached at 720-494-5420, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.