A Colorado state district court judge on Monday ruled that state law allows county clerks the authority to send ballots to “inactive failed to vote” voters in mail-in-only elections. The decision comes in a case where Secretary of State Scott Gessler sued Denver County Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson in 2011 for sending mail ballots to such so-called “inactive” voters. District Court Judge Edward D. Bronfin ruled against Gessler — an election-law attorney — saying that Johnson’s interpretation of the law is correct and that clerks statewide are permitted to mail ballots to inactive voters.
In Colorado, a voter is listed as inactive if they did not vote in the previous even-year general election and failed to respond to notifications asking for an update on their status. Prior to the 2011 election, Gessler, a Republican, issued an order that said mail ballots could be sent only to voters who voted in the last general election.
Gessler interpreted the state’s mail-ballot election law to read that county clerks could not mail ballots in elections conducted only by mail to voters who did not vote in the most recent general election. Enter Johnson, a Democrat, who read the law differently and decided she would send ballots to inactive voters — something the county had done in several previous elections.
Gessler responded by asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction stopping Johnson’s office from sending mail ballots to voters classified as “inactive failed to vote.” He was denied.