Like a fistfight in the street, the judicial showdown between Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler and two county clerks — Pueblo County’s Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz and Denver Clerk Debra Johnson — is starting to draw a crowd as both sides head for a court hearing today in Denver.
Denver District Judge Brian Whitney is scheduled to hear Gessler’s request for an injunction against Denver County at 1 p.m. today. Ortiz will be there, along with Pueblo County Attorney Dan Kogovsek, hoping Whitney will accept their filing to be included in the courtroom fight.
The dispute pits Gessler, a Republican, against Ortiz and Johnson, both Democrats, over the issue of whether the clerks can send mail ballots to inactive voters in those counties. Inactive voters are those who didn’t vote in the 2010 election or freshen their registration since then.
All county clerks sent out two mailings of postcards to those voters this year, but those voters who did not respond are considered inactive. Those are the ballots that Gessler claims should not be mailed without some effort by the voter to solicit a ballot. Only Pueblo and Denver counties are challenging his reading of state law.
For her part, Johnson already has mailed out all her ballots to Denver voters — to both active and inactive voters — while Ortiz is holding onto 17,000 ballots for inactive voters out of the 82,000 ballots his office ordered printed for the Nov. 1 election.
Like Johnson, Ortiz has argued, with the advice of Pueblo County Attorney Dan Kogovsek, that inactive voters are still entitled to receive ballots, regardless of their response to postcards or other notices.