The Saguache County clerk must turn over ballots from the problem-plagued 2010 general election for inspection by the Colorado secretary of state, a district court judge ruled today.
“To prevent errors in future elections, the Secretary as a higher authority must be allowed (sic) review all aspects of a prior election to determine whether the clerks have complied with existing procedures,” Judge Martin Gonzales stated in a written order. “Otherwise, the errors may be repeated in future elections.”
Gonzales also said voted ballots “may be subjected to public inspection” as long as they do not disclose the voter’s identity. Secretary of State Scott Gessler sued Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers earlier this year, after Myers refused to turn over ballots for a public review by Gessler’s office.
Myers, along with the state’s county clerk association, argued voted ballots are secret and that it is their duty to protect them. Myers said she would not turn over the records without a court order.
“This decision by Judge Gonzales affirms the public’s right to verify our elections in Colorado and stands as a victory for Saguache County voters,” Gessler said. “Improving voter confidence starts with an open and accountable system that preserves voter privacy. The ruling today reiterates these hallmarks of Colorado elections.”
Richard Coolidge, communications director for the secretary of state, said today that the office will move ahead with its original plan to travel to Saguache to review the ballots in a public setting. While a date has not been set for the review, Coolidge said the goal is to complete the review soon.
The November election generated multiple complaints to Gessler’s office and prompted a grand jury investigation after a “retabulation” of the ballots flipped the preliminary results of two races — including Myers’ own re-election.