A growing coalition is asking Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto a bill that creates rules for public inspection of voted ballots, saying it is “an unprecedented step” to block the public’s right to ensure fair elections that was “ramrodded” through the legislature in its final days. Among those who have contacted Hickenlooper or plan to do so are members of the Colorado Lawyers Committee Election Task Force, the chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, Colorado Common Cause, Colorado Ethics Watch and two election-integrity groups. “The reality of this legislation is that at the most critical time, when the public has an interest in clerks’ management of elections, it creates an unprecedented exemption from (the Colorado Open Records Act),” said John Zakhem, a prominent elections attorney.
Donetta Davidson, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said she was “flabbergasted” by the opposition. Without the bill, she said, results of this fall’s election — when Colorado is a presidential swing state — could be delayed by court battles. “At least this puts a process in place where we can handle this,” Davidson said.
The impetus for the bill was a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling last fall that voted ballots should be public records. The clerks association, concerned that open-records requests could interfere with the administration of elections and the confidentiality of how someone voted, worked with lawmakers and other stakeholders to create parameters for the requests.