Colorado’s county clerks say voted ballots should remain private even if there is no way to associate a ballot with the individual who cast it, and they will fight any effort by the public to inspect them — even if it means going to court or asking legislators for help.
The clerks’ position follows the unprecedented citizen review of ballots in Saguache County orchestrated by Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office. Gessler and many open-government advocates believe that making ballots available for public review is a way to maintain voter confidence; voters literally can see for themselves that a race or races were counted accurately.
The clerks believe the opposite is true. The disagreement is doing more than adding tension to an already strained relationship between Gessler and the clerks.
If Colorado doesn’t have a statewide standard by November 2012, media and the public could attempt to inspect ballots here — as they did in Florida in 2000 and in recent U.S. Senate races in Alaska and Minnesota — and any effort to make those ballots secret could put Colorado on a contentious national stage.
“It’s just not a pretty issue,” said Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Scott Doyle, a Republican and president of the Colorado County Clerks Association.
“We’re going into a 2012 election that’s going to be pretty dicey, in a battleground state,” Doyle said. “We can be certain it will come up again.”