About a dozen police officers helped sort through ballots Saturday as election workers labored to finish counting votes to settle the secretary of state's race, held up by computer problems and equipment breakdowns starting Election Day.
Meanwhile, City Councilwoman Marcia Johnson told The Denver Post that Commissioner Sandy Adams said the commission's technology chief Anthony Rainey was placed on "administrative investigative leave" Saturday in the wake of long delays for hundreds of residents trying to vote Tuesday. The delays were blamed in part on a balky computer system used to check voter registration.
Denver Election Commission spokesman Alton Dillard said 30 permanent and temporary staffers had a little more than 18,000 absentee ballots left to record when machine counting ended Saturday night. Work was to resume at 8 a.m. Sunday.
He said 49,764 absentee ballots have been counted so far. Some 3,000 provisional ballots won't be counted until Monday. Provisional ballots are usually cast by voters whose eligibility is in question. The names on those ballots will have to be verified because the votes can be counted.
The holdup in Denver and a few other counties kept the outcome of the secretary of state's race in limbo. By Saturday afternoon, Republican Mike Coffman had 739,957 votes, compared with Democrat Ken Gordon's 712,064.
Also undecided was a tax increase on the Denver ballot to fund preschool and an at-large seat for the University of Colorado Board of Regents.
There were an unknown number of outstanding votes in other counties, including Boulder and Pueblo.
Dillard said Police Chief Gerry Whitman offered the commission help from officers to open and sort ballots. New state rules prompted by a lawsuit requires that people handling ballots go through a background check by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
"Trying to find temporary help on short notice on a Saturday with that kind of clearance was difficult," Dillard said.
Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said the department decided it could spare a few officers. He said all the routine police duties were covered.
When the officers were seen arriving at the election commision, rumors started swirling that they were called in after a box of ballots was found that hadn't been counted. The rumor was quickly dispelled by Dillard.
The Denver Election Commission, whose members are appointed and elected, has drawn scathing criticism for its handling of the election. City Auditor Dennis Gallagher has said the commission had been warned months ago that problems were looming because of a lack of planning.
Problems with computers that Denver election officials use to check voters' registration and addresses led to waits of up to three hours to vote in some places. An unknown number of voters gave up.
Then one of two scanners used to count absentee ballots broke down Thursday. Dillard said the commission had three scanners Saturday.
Compounding troubles was the size of the ballot -- the longest in nearly a century.
"One of the things we're looking at is a top-to-bottom examination of all of our processes," Dillard said. "We are not even trying to hint that this a remotely acceptable outcome."
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