Comparative vote re-tabulation underway for 2020 election in Montrose County; review is not an official recount

Ballots have begun hitting the mail for the upcoming November election. (Montrose Daily Press/file photo)

The clerk and recorder is proceeding with a comparative re-tabulation of last year’s General Election.

Montrose County Clerk and Recorder Tressa Guynes confirmed Friday that Clear Ballot’s services have been formally secured, at a price of $18,490. The figure includes a $12,200 flat fee and a charge of 25 cents per ballot unit for the 25,160 ballots that were accepted and counted in the 2020 election.

“We’re plugging through it. Most people have been glad and thankful we are doing this,” Guynes said, “We have gotten a few who said it is a waste of taxpayer dollars, but by far, the majority of feedback we’re getting is very positive.”

Guynes contracted with Clear Ballot to conduct a comparative re-tab of last year’s election on Dominion voting equipment and software. As previously reported, this is not because she suspects there was a problem with the tabulation or Dominion, but rather, to allay concerns she has been hearing in the community after last year’s tempestuous presidential election, which spawned unproved allegations of widespread fraud.

What Clear Ballot is doing is not an official recount of votes cast in 2020, but is a quality check to see whether it will come up with results similar to Dominion’s tabulation.

Montrose is among 62 counties in the state that uses Dominion equipment and software; Clear Ballot is the other system certified for use in Colorado.

The re-tab is being fast-tracked, Guynes said, in part because other counties are now asking for similar checks, but for the upcoming election, and she does not want to get caught in a backlog.

“The big question has been last year’s election results,” she said, adding it makes more sense to have Clear Ballot run a tabulation test on that election than the upcoming one.

The worry she keeps hearing from the community is that when there was a software update and trusted build this year, critical data were erased.

“We’ve seen no evidence of it, but that’s what we’re hearing in the community. We’ve seen zero evidence. We’re not doing this re-tabulation for our benefit; we’re doing it for the community,” Guynes said.

Her office is providing Clear Ballot encrypted information in a sealed hard drive with images of ballots scanned, which it will re-tabulate. Clear Ballot does not have access to voting machines.

The process will also use the same election judges who worked last year’s election. This bipartisan team performs such functions as determining voter intend when ballots have stray marks.

Guynes is hopeful of providing the encrypted information within the next two weeks. She did not have a timeline for the entire re-tabulation process.

Your ballot’s in the mailBallots for the upcoming election began being mailed out Friday, Oct. 8, to registered voters statewide.

Election Day is Nov. 2 and all ballots must be received by 7 p.m. that day.

Ballots may be mailed back (use extra postage), returned in person at Montrose County’s historic courthouse at 320 S. First St. during the building’s business hours, or dropped into a secure, video-monitored drop box located on the sidewalk at the foot of the steps.

The clerk and recorder’s office will open a voter service polling center there on Oct. 25, which will be open 8:30 a.m. — 4:30 p.m., Monday — Friday. There will be weekend hours on Saturday, Oct. 30, from 8:30 a.m. — 12:30 p.m. On Nov. 1, the hours are 8:30 a.m. — 4:30 p.m. and on Election Day, Nov. 2, it will be open until polls close at 7 p.m.

Those who prefer to do so can come in and vote on a machine instead of using a mail-in ballot.

There are three statewide issues on the ballot: Amendment 78, which would transfer from the state treasurer to the Legislature the authority to appropriate state revenue not generated by taxes (custodial funds). These custodial funds and the interest they generate would be exempt from the revenue-capping rules of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Proposition 119 would increase taxes on retail marijuana sales.

Proposition 120 seeks to drop the residential property tax assessment rate from 7.15% to 6.5% and the non-residential property tax assessment rate from 29% to 26.4%. It would also authorize the state to retain and spend $25 million in revenue above TABOR caps for five years.

Locally, there are three ballot styles and the style an elector receives depends on where he or she lives.

The first is for the Montrose County School District board election, which is being mailed to everyone who lives in the school district — 27, 437 ballots, Guynes said.

Because 189 Montrose County electors live within the boundaries of the Delta County School District and/or the Delta Library District, their ballot will list that school district’s race and the Delta library ballot issue.

On the West End of Montrose County, 1,304 electors live within the West End School District and will receive a ballot allowing them to vote on a property tax increase for the school district so that it can take advantage of a BEST grant for schools. The West End School District also has a board race.

Samples of all ballots, as well as the Colorado Blue Book Ballot Information can be found at montrosecounty.net/73/elections. The state is also mailing the Blue Book to voters.

To register to vote, or check registration, visit GoVoteColorado.gov or visit vote411.org.

The Montrose Daily Press will be publishing a closer look at the ballot issues in the coming weeks, as well as school board candidate profiles.

The League of Women Voters of the Uncompahgre Valley will host its ballot information presentation on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at The Forum talks, 8 a.m., Colorado Mesa University, Cascade Room.

Also, on Oct. 18, from 6 — 8 p.m., the league is sponsoring a school board candidate forum.

This will be held at the Ute Indian Museum, 17253 Chipeta Road, featuring District A candidate Jeff Bachman; District C candidates Andrew Neal and Alice Murphy; District E candidates Cortney Loyd and Sarah Fishering; District F candidates Dawn Schieldt and Eric Kelly and District G candidate Stephen Bush.

League member Lina Gann will moderate and audience questions will be accepted.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.