After a voter advocacy group offered proof that county clerks and other election officials could identify how specific people voted — which would violate a citizen’s basic right to a secret ballot — Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced an “emergency rule” effective immediately that will prevent officials from linking ballots to voters. It’s a big win for activist Marilyn Marks, who has been criticizing the system for more than a year. But at least one county clerk thinks the rule change will only create a whole host of headaches come Election Day. The rule announced late yesterday afternoon is a noteworthy move for Gessler, who has faced numerous lawsuits and considerable criticism from government watchdog groups and other political organizations as the November election nears.
Gessler, whose office oversees elections across the state, was most recently dealt a blow by Denver District Court when a judge rejected a series of election rules that he had rewritten. In that case, rule changes had angered several good government groups that argued that Gessler was overstepping his bounds as a member of the executive branch of government not charged with actually writing rules — and the court seemed to agree on many counts. In this latest development, Gessler is definitely making a rule change — but this time, an advocacy watchdog group is applauding the effort.
Here’s the basic problem and how Gessler’s office hopes to address it: According to Marks, founder and president of Citizen Center — a non-partisan, non-profit group that focuses on accountability and transparency in elections — in 44 counties across Colorado that use the same system, unique barcodes on the ballots allow officials with access to the ballots to eventually trace them back to individual voters.