A group of Colorado voters filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Scott Gessler and six county clerks today, saying their election practices are unconstitutional because they allow some ballots to be traced to the person who cast them. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, argues that voters in those counties are being deprived of their right to a secret vote, and asks a federal judge to order the practices stopped. “The right to a secret ballot is a revered principle of American democracy,” said Marilyn Marks, a voting integrity activist who founded Citizen Center, the group that filed the lawsuit. “No one, most particularly government officials, should have access to information that can connect ballots with voters,” Marks said.
The lawsuit names clerks in Boulder, Chaffee, Eagle, Jefferson, Larimer and Mesa counties. It comes as the Colorado County Clerks Association, Gessler’s office, lawmakers and voting activists are grappling with how to handle Colorado Open Records Act requests for voted ballots.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled last year that voted ballots are public records and should be made available for inspection. That case is being appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. Donetta Davidson, executive director of the clerks association, said clerks first raised the issue of ballots being traceable last fall as an “unintended consequence” of the appeals court ruling. “We are pleased that legislators from both parties are working toward a solution, and our focus is on solving this issue,” Davidson said. “Now is the time to work collaboratively, rather than litigiously, to ensure voter privacy and the public transparency.”