The Colorado Supreme Court agreed Friday morning to hear the Center election contest case, but ordered that the board currently serving shall remain in place. Plaintiffs Maurice C. Jones and Citizen Center, a Colorado non-profit corporation, were directed to answer in writing on or before July 8, in order to explain why the relief requested in the petition to the court should not be granted. Christian Samora, Herman Sisneros, Geraldine Martinez and Edward Garcia were given 15 days to reply to the court. Jennie Sanchez and Mary McClure were granted permission to file an amicus curae brief in the case. The court also invited the Secretary of State’s Office to file an amicus brief.
Last year, the Pew Center for the States released a report titled “Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade.” Among other things, it revealed that “almost 2.7 million people appear to be registered in two states, and more than 70,000 people could be registered in three or more.” The Colorado legislature isn’t helping matters with House Bill 1303, which has passed both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature. The bill requires mail ballots be sent to all registered voters, whether they’ve cast ballots in recent elections or not — and halted when the ballot is returned or the state learns through other checks that someone has moved or died. One critical backstop is the National Change of Address file maintained by the Postal Service. But in an era in which snail mail is rapidly losing its relevance, particularly for young adults, that file is hardly comprehensive. And yet as Pew points out, “Census numbers from 2009 reveal one in four adults ages 25 to 34 changed residences.” So what happens in homes where, say, a 20-something takes a job in another state? The ballots could just keep on coming.
Colorado: Colorado bill raises the possibility of voter fraud and intimidation, critics say | Washington Free Beacon
Colorado’s Democratic-controlled state legislature is ramming through an election bill that critics say will open the door to voter fraud and intimidation. The “Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act” is expected to pass the legislature this week. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature, as well as the governor’s mansion, meaning the bill could pass without a single Republican vote. The bill is under consideration amid accusations that Republicans in other states have tried to suppress the vote by passing laws that require some form of identification in order to vote.
Colorado: It’s no secret: Judge tosses ballot privacy lawsuit against Larimer County CO | The Coloradoan
A federal judge in Denver ruled Friday that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to a secret ballot. U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello dismissed a lawsuit brought by voting-rights activists with the Aspen-based Citizen Center that accused Colorado election officials including the Larimer County clerk’s office and Secretary of State Scott Gessler of managing voted ballots in a way that is traceable to individual voters. “Coloradans until today have believed they are entitled to a secret ballot,” said Citizen Center founder Marilyn Marks. “Now we’re being told we are mistaken.”
The election reform advocate who has been blowing the whistle on ballots that can be traced back to voters is claiming that she “broke the code” to Boulder County’s ballot-numbering system last week. But Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall submitted a new, more complex vote-counting process to Secretary of State Scott Gessler this week, and that may make the discovery moot. Marilyn Marks, who filed suit against Gessler and several Colorado counties after it was revealed that ballots could be traced back to voters in Chaffee County, told Boulder Weekly that she figured out how to track voter identities using Boulder County’s system of serial numbers and bar codes, an approach that she says violates state law. The state Constitution says “no ballots shall be marked in any way whereby the ballots can be identified as the ballot of the person casting it.” In response to the Chaffee County discovery, Gessler issued an emergency rule saying counties must stop using numbers on ballots.
Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall says a new system for numbering ballots would preserve voter anonymity as well as efficiency in tallying election results, and she expects it to pass muster with the Secretary of State’s Office. However, election integrity activists say any “distinguishing marks” on ballots violate the law and open the door to linking individual voters with their ballots. The group Citizen Center has filed a request for a restraining order in federal court to stop the printing of Boulder County’s ballots with distinguishing serial numbers. A hearing on the request is scheduled for Sept. 21. Like other counties who use the Hart Voting System, Boulder County’s ballots have three sets of numbers and bar codes — one that identifies the election, one that identifies the precinct and ballot content (which jurisdictions and ballot questions the voter is voting on) and one that identifies the ballot.
Colorado: Scott Gessler adopts emergency rule to prevent ballots from being traced to voters | Westword
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.
It’s a secret locked away from lovers, parents, children and best friends. Now a voter-advocacy group is suing some Colorado election officials, including Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Scott Doyle, to assure that greater ballot security keeps voters’ preferences from prying eyes. Because of the way they are sorted, stored and preserved, each voted ballot in some counties — including Larimer — can be traced back to the individual who cast it, the Citizen Center claims in its federal lawsuit against six county clerks and Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Legal pleadings of the election officials and conversations with others leave little doubt that ballot data in some counties can be mined deep enough to reveal who cast each ballot and, consequently, how they voted. “We acknowledge that there are some traceable ballots,” said Andrew Cole, spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.
Colorado: Election watchers see officials chipping away at public oversight | The Colorado Independent
Marty Neilson, Republican Party election watcher, walked out of the Boulder County Clerk’s building in disgust as workers there tabulated primary voting results the last week of June. Neilson said she couldn’t see anything of substance and felt like she was participating in a sham exercise in oversight. “[Clerk Hillary Hall] kept us behind [solid] walls and behind glass walls,” Neilson told the Colorado Independent. “We are there to view the whole process, which is what the statutes say we’re supposed to do, from the time the [election workers] get the ballots to the time they verify the signatures and then count the votes. But it was a charade. I left because why stay? There was no reason to be there.” Neilson said she phoned Secretary of State Scott Gessler to complain and that he later called back to say he was sympathetic to her concerns. His office didn’t return messages left by the Independent seeking comment, but the update to election law Rule 8.6 (pdf) he has proposed with the aim of bringing clarity to the regulations governing election watchers may well exacerbate the kind of problems watchers complained about in Boulder. The new version of the rule would give greater discretion to county clerks to direct watcher activities. The secretary of state’s office is holding a public hearing on the rule June 23.
A judge stated Monday a contested order he issued doesn’t bar a citizens group from seeking records from election officials in Chaffee County and five other counties embroiled in a ballots lawsuit. The order, instead, bars the group from circumventing limits on how much information each side can seek from the other side to be used to bolster their positions on the lawsuit, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Watanabe stated. The elections-activist group Citizen Center had asked Watanabe to rescind a restriction in the order, contending it infringed on rights of the group and its members to use the Colorado Open Records Act.
Election officials in Chaffee County and five other counties contend a citizen group suing the officials is trying to create a nonexistent illusion of harm about access to public records. County Clerk and Recorder Joyce Reno and her counterparts in the other counties contend Citizen Center overstated the scope of a court order that restricts requests from the group’s members to view records. The advocacy group, based in Aspen, claimed earlier this month the order violates its right to view records kept by the election officials.
Colorado: Ballot review open only to select parties? – Hickenlooper must decide whether to veto HB 1036 | Colorado Statesman
Gov. John Hickenlooper is weighing a controversial bill that some believe creates a separate class of the public in reviewing ballots following an election, with the aim of maintaining anonymity while also allowing for transparency. House Bill 1036 — which began as Senate Bill 155, but was grafted onto HB 1036 in the waning hours of the regular legislative session — would solidify in statute that ballots are open to the public under the Colorado Open Records Act, but not immediately available to all members of the public. Instead, the bill would create a category known as an “interested party,” which would include political parties and representatives of issue committees, or stakeholders involved in the outcome of the election. Those “interested parties” would be granted access to ballots starting 45 days before any election and until the election is certified, while the rest of the public — including the press and watchdog groups — would be prohibited from reviewing the ballots until the election is certified by county clerks.
The Colorado Secretary of State and six county clerks have “unconstitutionally arrogated” to themselves an election system that can trace ballots “to the individual voters who cast those ballots,” a watchdog group claims in Federal Court. Citizen Center, a nonprofit, seeks declaratory judgment and an injunction against the Colorado Secretary of State and the clerks of Mesa, Larimer, Jefferson, Boulder, Chaffee and Eagle Counties.