New voters wreak havoc on Secretary of State’s online registration system

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

A busy day for Pitkin County election officials on Tuesday was made even busier when the voter registration section of the Colorado Secretary of State’s website slowed to a crawl.
The sheer volume of people trying to register — at one point Tuesday afternoon, the site was receiving 100 registrations a minute, a spokesman said — bogged the system down ahead of last night’s midnight deadline for would-be voters.
Although it’s too late now that the voter registration deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday has passed, Dwight Shellman, the county’s elections manager, on Tuesday offered some advice for citizens unable to access the state’s website, including going to and printing a voter-registration form.
He advised filling the form out and signing and dating it; would-be voters could then scan the form and email it as an attachment to Shellman. Citizens could also take a photo of the completed form using their smart phones and email the photo that way, Shellman said.
“As long as we receive it by 11:59:59, they’ll be fine,” he said.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been accused of trying to purge voters from the election rolls, including a plan, later abandoned, to make nearly 4,000 people prove their citizenship.
And the timing of Tuesday’s snafu led the state Democratic Party to pounce on Gessler, a Republican.
“Coloradans are potentially being disenfranchised in a historic election because he has not handled the most basic duties of his office,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio in a statement. “Secretary of State Gessler needs to step forward and say what he is going to do to make sure every Coloradan has the opportunity to take part in this election. Incompetence by elected officials is no justification for denying citizens their right to vote.”
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland also weighed in on the website problems. Asked if he suspected a political effort to disenfranchise voters, he said, “I don’t know whether it’s devious or dumb, but it’s one of the two.”
But Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, decried Palacio’s statement.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the state Democrat chairman said the system wasn’t working and threw up a white flag telling people to not try” to register, he said.
Despite the online woes, those trying to register had other ways to do so before the deadline, Coolidge said, reiterating the methods Shellman cited of using smart phones, faxes and time-stamped mail showing the registration was sent Tuesday to get the form in before last night’s deadline.
Coolidge also touted an iPhone registration app that his office created.
“There are many options,” he said.
Many on Tuesday using the Secretary of State’s website found this message: “If you are receiving this error during regular business hours, we apologize for the inconvenience. This application is experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again at a later time.”
Another spokesman told The Denver Post that the office doubled the number of servers to handle the registration influx.
Coolidge said there was nothing political about the website issues.
“We’re having a ton of traffic coming through right now,” he said. “We’re having some slowness as a result of that.”