The City and County of Broomfield, Colorado experienced a close and contentious election in November 2013. One ballot issue was decided by about twenty votes, triggering a mandatory recount. The election results were challenged in District Court; while the court sustained the results of the election, it concluded that procedural mistakes occurred and some ballots were processed incorrectly. Although Broomfield has an experienced Elections staff, during the heat of a busy election season, small problems can occur that would normally not affect the outcome. In this case, the narrow margin on one issue attracted detailed scrutiny of Broomfield’s election procedures by representatives on both sides of the issue, election activists, and the Secretary of State. The resulting proceedings showed some instances of technical non-compliance with State law and rules, including the response of Broomfield Elections to changes in law and rules related to residency time for eligible voters, which occurred shortly before the election. Broomfield acknowledged weaknesses in documented procedures, ambiguities about the roles of various participants in the process, and concerns about how the new state law and various regulations were implemented.
The City Council decided to bring in a third party organization with expertise in elections, auditing, and business processes to assess the 2013 election issues and help develop stronger procedures.
SLI Global Solutions was selected both to provide the independent assessment and to review and strengthen the internal election procedures. The SLI team included a former county clerk with extensive experience in election administration at the county level and election project management at the state level, along with an expert in auditing and improving internal procedures.
As part of the independent assessment, the SLI team analyzed findings and data from the 2013 election, including input from election observers, elections staff, and the canvass board; court proceedings; and Secretary of State reports. SLI focused on a set of identified issues and other concerns expressed by authorities and individuals with direct experience in the election process. The assessment found that while many areas were handled appropriately according to the applicable laws, rules and best practices, a handful of practices needed to be reassessed or clarified. For example, a small number of voters in Broomfield could not be verified as to their eligibility to vote on certain questions due to a residency rule change by the Secretary of State in October 2013. SLI investigated this issue and recommended that when a state law or rule changes, even right before an election with preparation underway, election officials must confirm procedural details with the Secretary of State’s office rather than making a judgment call regarding conflicting or missing information. In all, SLI assessed over 20 issues surrounding the 2013 election and reported our analysis to the City Council, along with a status description on each issue as of June 2014.
SLI next worked with Broomfield Elections staff to evaluate and improve existing internal procedures. We reviewed eighteen key procedures and their supplemental documents (flowcharts, training materials, and procedures used by election judges).
SLI provided recommendations to improve clarity, identification of roles, and conformity to laws, rules and best practices. After the elections staff implemented changes and addressed comments, the SLI team re-reviewed the procedures and collaborated with Broomfield to finalize them for the 2014 General Election. The County Clerk and Elections Team understand that any such procedures are living documents that need regular review. This review is required after statutory changes and rule updates, but also plays a key role in ongoing process improvement.
SLI confirmed that the Broomfield Elections team is closely following Secretary of State notifications and continues to maintain and clarify the internal procedures on an ongoing basis.