Colorado’s decision to revert to paper ballots in November comes with a price tag: a delay in reporting results — unless extremely expensive scanning equipment is purchased for use at polling sites (rather than the scanners at off-site centers using central count scanners.)

Clerks in several of the largest counties, representing almost half of all voters statewide, warn that they will not have complete results on election night because of the state’s move to paper ballots.

Election officials in Denver and Boulder counties, who have chosen to use a paper voting system, said they don’t expect to finish tallying most votes until the morning after the election. Clerks in Arapahoe, Jefferson and Adams counties, where voters have previously cast ballots on electronic machines, said it could take two or three days to tally paper ballots.

Counties, like El Paso (Colorado Springs) with equipment that scans ballots at polling sites get their results in within a few hours. At the other extreme, counties like Boulder that use central count scanners, took 3 days to report results in 2004 and 20 hours in 2006. In Denver, the cost of polling site scanners would run $1.5 million and Elections Director Michael Scarpello isn’t going to fork over the dough. He anticipates submitting results the morning after election night.

I think it’s just a matter of adjusting our expectations. I’d rather have an accurate count than a fast one. As Senate majority leader Ken Gordon says,

“My concerns have been making sure that everybody who wants to vote gets to vote and that the votes are counted accurately.”

Gov. Ritter is urging a bill to require voters to use paper ballots at their polling places. Sen. Gordon will introduce it this week.