The state can conduct a public review of November’s election in Saguache County election that includes voted ballots, District Court Judge Martin Gonzales ruled Thursday evening. Secretary of State Scott Gessler sued county Clerk & Recorder Melinda Myers in March after she had refused to turn over the ballots and argued that a public review would violate the secrecy of the ballot.
Gonzales ruled the defense had not established that ballots contained information that would identify a voter. Moreover, the ruling stated that requesting the ballots for the review was within Gessler’s powers.
It compared inclusion of ballots in the review to an auditor’s need to see invoices, checks and receipts. “Likewise, the secretary cannot review the adequacy of procedures used in ballot counts without reviewing the voted ballots,” the ruling stated.
Gessler issued a statement Friday, calling the ruling a “victory for Saguache County voters.” Gessler said he hoped a review would quiet controversy over the election, which saw the clerk’s office conduct a second count of the ballots Nov. 5 after election personnel loaded the mail-in results from two precincts twice and excluded polling place results from those same precincts.
The Nov. 5 recount overturned election-night results that had Republican challenger Steven Carlson leading Democratic incumbent Linda Joseph in the race for commissioner and GOP clerk candidate Carla Gomez leading Myers.
In March, Gessler proposed a hand review of the ballots as part of a larger examination of the election, although he said the review would not overturn the election results. Gonzales’ ruling said there was not stated or explicit authority in the law for Gessler to conduct a hand review.