Marty Neilson, Republican Party election watcher, walked out of the Boulder County Clerk’s building in disgust as workers there tabulated primary voting results the last week of June. Neilson said she couldn’t see anything of substance and felt like she was participating in a sham exercise in oversight. “[Clerk Hillary Hall] kept us behind [solid] walls and behind glass walls,” Neilson told the Colorado Independent. “We are there to view the whole process, which is what the statutes say we’re supposed to do, from the time the [election workers] get the ballots to the time they verify the signatures and then count the votes. But it was a charade. I left because why stay? There was no reason to be there.” Neilson said she phoned Secretary of State Scott Gessler to complain and that he later called back to say he was sympathetic to her concerns. His office didn’t return messages left by the Independent seeking comment, but the update to election law Rule 8.6 (pdf) he has proposed with the aim of bringing clarity to the regulations governing election watchers may well exacerbate the kind of problems watchers complained about in Boulder. The new version of the rule would give greater discretion to county clerks to direct watcher activities. The secretary of state’s office is holding a public hearing on the rule June 23.
Neither Neilson nor any of the other Boulder County watchers the Independent was able to contact– members of the public appointed by political parties to oversee the election process– as well as members of the county’s canvass board, doubted the veracity of the election results produced by Hall and her staff and they commended the efficiency of the operation. Yet most of them shared Neilson’s concerns. “We were just too far from everything to do proper monitoring. It’s totally inadequate,” said Mary Eberle, a watcher for the American Constitution Party who is also a member of the watchdog group Citizen Center, which is suing six county clerks, including Clerk Hall, and the Secretary of State for using ballots that Citizen Center believes can be traced to voters.