Montrose County clerk keeps fielding questions about Dominion voting system. She hopes a competitor's re-tab will lay them to rest

Tress Guynes

In hopes of allaying any local concerns about Dominion voting equipment and software, Montrose County Clerk and Recorder Tressa Guynes intends to have the company’s competitor conduct a comparative re-tabulation of the General Election results here.

For a price tag hovering at around $19,000, Guynes is preparing to go forward with having Dominion competitor Clear Ballot conduct a re-tabulation.

The county already conducts elections audits and a re-tabulation wouldn’t be an official recount of votes here in 2020 — where Republican candidates won by large margins — but rather, a means of seeing whether Clear Ballot will turn up the substantially same results as Dominion did.

Guynes said she does not expect different results, or any significant anomalies between the two systems, and that she has seen no evidence of problems with the Dominion system in Colorado.

“We’re not needing it for our concerns to be validated. We’re doing it for the community,” Guynes said.

The clerk is also considering having Clear Ballot conduct future comparative re-tabulations.

Dominion and Clear Ballot are the two voting systems certified for use by the Colorado Secretary of State. The majority of counties — 62, including Montrose — uses Dominon, while Douglas and Garfield counties use Clear Ballot.

Earlier this year, El Paso County contracted with Clear Ballot’s ClearAudit for another look at General Election results. The review’s results came within 0.002% of the official ones provided by the Dominion system, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported in May.

Guynes’ office has been fielding questions about Montrose County’s Dominion voting system and the contentious 2020 election, which remains clouded by unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.

Most of those who reach out to Guynes seem to want to inform themselves about the voting system here, she said, although some may believe Dominion is faulty.

“There is definitely a group of people that strongly believe the machines are accessed and the votes are flipped and can be accessed through modems,” she said.

“We were getting so many phone calls (with general concerns) that we decided to have a public forum and invited everyone in as a group to come ask questions.”

The limited space for the talk would have accommodated 10 people; two said they would come and only one did, she reported.

In Colorado, electors can vote a paper ballot and return it by mail, or drop that ballot in person. They can also come vote a ballot in person, whether on paper or on an electronic voting machine, which produces a paper print out.

Signature verification machines are in a secured room that the general public cannot access without an escort and the vote-count equipment is also in a secured room.

The signature verification machines are connected to SCORE — the Statewide Colorado Registration and Election system — a database of voter signatures, which is connected to an internal server encased in the secured room.

The state uses encrypted thumb drives that automatically erase when they are removed from equipment; these cannot then be placed into another computer for a second vote by the same person.

Machines are secured with tamper-evident seals.

Any elections official who deals with the voting equipment must first complete a background check.

Counties and the state also perform risk-limiting audits after each election.

With recommendations from El Paso County, Guynes reached out to Clear Ballot to discuss a comparative re-tabulation.

As she described the process, Clear Ballot will receive an encrypted, sealed hard drive electronic with images of ballots the clerk and recorder scans, then will tabulate these.

Clear Ballot will not receive any access to the voting machines. It would be conducting a re-tabulation that does not involve the Dominion equipment itself.

“We will be in constant control of everything. We will scan the ballots, provide electronic images of the ballots in a secure environment on a hard drive to Clear Ballot who will then take those images and re-tabulate votes as a second opinion,” Guynes said.

Based on conference calls concerning details and logistics, along with a virtual demonstration, Guynes on Friday accepted Clear Ballot’s quote and expressed interest in going forward.

Guynes said although $19,000 is pricey, it will be worth the money.

“We feel that it’s worth it to validate the results and compare the two voting systems,” Guynes said.

“I think it would resolve a lot of questions people have.”

Clear Ballot only has a toehold in Colorado right now and would probably want more businesses, Guynes said, and that gives the company a motive to be as accurate as possible.

“They’re going to try to prove Dominion wrong. I expect them (results) to be the same. The only thing that could possibly be different — and it would be minute — is the definition of ambiguous marks as it’s dialed into Dominion and how it is dialed into Clear Ballot.”

A bipartisan team of election judges assesses stray marks on ballots to adjudicate voter intent when it is not clear. For consistency, Guynes will use the same team to make those assessments with the Clear Ballot re-tabulation.

Guynes has not heard of problems with Clear Ballot voting systems in Colorado. “You have to look at them as a strict competitor with their foot in the door in Colorado,” she said.

Guynes will be conferring with county commissioners Monday for feedback, she also said.

Messages left for the commissioners Friday evening were not returned by deadline.

Guynes is also seeking clarity as to whether she will need a formal contract, because the purchase amount is less than $25,000.

“I would like feedback for that because $20,000 is a lot of money,” Guynes said.

She maintains that it should be money well-spent.

“I’m not doing it for my benefit,” Guynes said.

People can email questions and feedback to elections@montrosecounty.net.

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

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

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