Voting Blogs: Denver Elections Division creates app to streamline petition process | electionlineWeekly

Coffee stains, bad penmanship, rips, tears and lots of folds and crinkles. From elections office staff to candidates to campaign volunteers, anyone who has worked an election knows what a mess ballot petitions can be. That’s why the Denver Elections Division has come up with what’s believed to be a first-in-the-nation way to gather signatures that is fast, efficient and coffee stain free. Beginning with the qualifying process for municipal elections this May, the office is test piloting a program that allows candidates to use a tablet and stylus to gather ballot petition signatures. “This cutting edge application has the potential to transform the petition process – providing easier access to the ballot and efficiencies never seen before in this country,” said Denver Clerk & Recorder Debra Johnson. “For years the hallmark of Denver Elections has been innovation and progress – 2015 will be no different. This bold approach has one thing in mind: our customers.” eSign, as the office is calling new application, allows circulators to gather signatures on a tablet that is registered with the  Elections Division.

Colorado: Judge tosses Denver clerk’s inactive voter suit against Scott Gessler | The Denver Post

Secretary of State Scott Gessler has won the latest but perhaps not the last battle over whether ballots should be mailed to inactive voters. Denver District Court Judge Michael Martinez sided with Gessler, who adopted a rule last year blocking clerks from automatically sending mail ballots to inactive voters in city and school board elections in a suit brought by Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson. Martinez said Denver’s status as a home-rule county did not exempt it from following state election rules. “I think it’s fundamentally an equal-treatment issue,” Gessler said. “The rules and provisions El Paso County uses needs to be the same ones that Denver uses. … You can’t have one county, for instance, that wants to leave the polls open for an hour and another that leaves them open for 20.”

Colorado: Colorado judge denies Scott Gessler on “inactive voters” lawsuit | The Denver Post

A Colorado state district court judge on Monday ruled that state law allows county clerks the authority to send ballots to “inactive failed to vote” voters in mail-in-only elections. The decision comes in a case where Secretary of State Scott Gessler sued Denver County Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson in 2011 for sending mail ballots to such so-called “inactive” voters. District Court Judge Edward D. Bronfin ruled against Gessler — an election-law attorney — saying that Johnson’s interpretation of the law is correct and that clerks statewide are permitted to mail ballots to inactive voters.

Voting Blogs: Colorado Victory: Judge Rules for Voting Rights | Brennan Center for Justice

The voting rights of thousands of Colorado citizens were protected today as a state district court judge blocked Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s controversial interpretation of Colorado’s mail ballot election law. Under Sec. Gessler’s reading of the law, county clerks could not mail ballots in elections conducted only by mail to voters who did not vote in the most recent general election. In effect, thousands of eligible voters — including many longtime voters — would not be able to vote unless they jumped through new and burdensome hurdles. Colorado election law gives counties the option of conducting certain elections by mail. In these elections, there are no traditional polling places; instead, citizens vote by mailing in ballots sent to them by county election administrators. Just before the November 2011 election, Sec. Gessler issued an order prohibiting counties from mailing ballots to voters who did not vote in the last general election (2010). These voters, so called “inactive-failed to vote” voters, could only be sent mail ballots if they submitted to a confusing and burdensome administrative process to “reactivate” their status by effectively re-registering to vote.

Colorado: Denver clerk sues Gessler over mailing ballots to inactive voters | The Denver Post

Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson on Wednesday sued Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, challenging a rule from his office to block ballots from being mailed to inactive voters in city and school board elections. “The election rules adopted in August by the Colorado secretary of state prohibiting the mailing of ballots to inactive-failed-to-vote voters in nonpartisan and coordinated elections infringes on Denver’s status as a home rule city and county,” Johnson said in a statement. “We believe that the secretary of state is overstepping his authority by trying to control who gets ballots in local municipal elections.

Colorado: Denver clerk Johnson, Secretary of State Gessler reignite ballot fight | The Denver Post

Denver officials and Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler are positioning for another fight over when the clerk’s office may mail ballots to inactive voters — a battle that could have ramifications for the November presidential election. Late last week, Gessler’s office proposed a new rule it says clarifies that clerks may not mail ballots to inactive voters in a “coordinated” election, or an election held simultaneously with another political entity. The issue took on new significance this week, when Denver Public Schools announced it could ask voters in November for a $500 million property tax increase. That would make Nov. 6 a coordinated election in Denver, reopening the debate over whether Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson may mail ballots to inactive voters — who are overwhelmingly Democrats and unaffiliated.

Colorado: Fairness questioned as 9 mostly Democratic Colorado counties to mail inactive voters ballots | The Denver Post

Officials in at least nine counties plan to mail ballots to inactive voters for the Nov. 1 election — a decision some believe could give a boost to a statewide ballot measure to raise taxes for education. The counties — all but two of which lean or are heavily Democratic — are home to about 107,000 voters considered “inactive/failed to vote.”

Victor Mitchell, a former state representative from Douglas County who is leading the opposition to Proposition 103, said Tuesday the fact that some counties are mailing to inactive voters while others are not is “a form of gerrymandering and voter manipulation” that creates an unlevel playing field.

“It will clearly have an effect,” Mitchell said. “Will it be enough to put (Proposition 103) over the top? I certainly hope not.” Proposition 103, the only statewide measure on next month’s ballot, would raise taxes for five years to generate $3 billion for education.

Colorado: More counties sending ballots to inactive voters | The Pueblo Chieftain

Boulder and Pitkin counties have reversed course and will send election ballots to inactive voters this month, the Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office confirmed Monday. That turnaround comes only two days after a Denver district judge refused to block Denver and Pueblo counties from doing so.

Boulder will send ballots to about 24,000 inactive voters, while Pitkin will send out about 2,500 ballots. Mesa County officials also notified Gessler on Monday that they will send ballots to their inactive military and overseas voters only, but not to inactive voters within their county. El Paso County, which has a heavy registration of overseas military voters, was the target of protests Friday from one veterans group objecting to Clerk Wayne Williams’ decision not to send ballots to about 800 inactive military voters. Williams reaffirmed after the court ruling that his county does not intend to send ballots to any of its 63,000 inactive voters, regardless of Friday’s court ruling.

Colorado: Judge’s ruling allows Nov. 1 election ballots to be sent to inactive voters | The Denver Post

Thousands of inactive voters in two Democratic strongholds will be mailed ballots for the Nov. 1 election following a judge’s ruling Friday. Denver District Judge Brian Whitney denied a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who argued that state law prevents Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson from mailing ballots to inactive voters.

Following the decision, Johnson and Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz said they will proceed with plans to mail ballots to those voters — about 54,000 in Denver and 17,000 in Pueblo.

Colorado: Judge: Denver may send ballots to inactive voters | The Denver Post

Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson may send ballots to inactive voters, District Court Judge Brian Whitney ruled this afternoon. Secretary of State Scott Gessler asked Whitney last month to issue a preliminary injunction stopping Johnson’s office from sending mail ballots to voters classified as “inactive failed to vote.”

Those voters — about 54,357 in Denver county, or about 12 percent of all registered voters — are voters who didn’t vote in the 2010 general election or any subsequent election. They also failed to respond to postcards from their clerk and recorder asking whether they want a ballot for the Nov. 1 election.

Gessler, a Republican, said he wanted to ensure the statewide uniformity of the election. Although the judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction, Gessler’s suit may continue. The Secretary of State’s attorney also said Gessler may issue a rule on the issue.

Colorado: Crowd gathering for court battle over inactive voters | The Pueblo Chieftain

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.

Colorado: Pueblo County clerk joins lawsuit over ballots for inactive voters | The Denver Post

Vowing to protect the right to vote for military personnel overseas, Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz announced Wednesday that he is joining the lawsuit between Secretary of State Scott Gessler and Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson.

Last week, Gessler, a Republican, sent a letter warning Ortiz that if he mailed ballots to inactive voters who are eligible to vote, he would be named in the lawsuit by Gessler’s office. Ortiz and Johnson are Democrats.

At the time, Ortiz said he would “reluctantly” comply with Gessler’s order not to mail ballots to 64 inactive military voters but indicated that the dispute of whether inactive voters should receive mail ballots was not over.

Colorado: Court to hear case this week over Denver’s mail-in ballots |

A battle over which voters should get ballots in Denver for this November’s election is headed to court this week. Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R-Colorado) is suing the city’s top election official, Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson, because she plans to mail ballots to people even if they didn’t vote last year. “It’s a difference of interpretation of state statue between inactive-fail to vote and their ability to receive a mail ballot,” Johnson said.

“Once the state legislature sets up the law, we need to follow it. That’s my position,” Gessler said.

The question a judge will consider this Friday is whether Denver can mail election ballots to the 55,000 residents who are registered to vote, but are considered inactive. That’s about 20 percent of the city’s electorate. Johnson says Denver has done so for several years with no problems. Gessler says a state law permitting it has expired, so it’s against the law to continue to do so. He says there is also concern about election fraud.

Colorado: Reluctantly, clerk says, ballots not in the mail | The Pueblo Chieftain

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz will “reluctantly” comply with Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s order not to mail ballots to 64 inactive military voters. Ortiz announced his decision Friday afternoon, but said the dispute with Gessler over whether inactive voters should receive mail ballots this year isn’t over.

“Pueblo County is currently weighing our legal options, including taking the issue to court,” Ortiz said in a statement. “The secretary of state effectively has denied 64 active military personnel the opportunity to vote.”

The dispute well could end Oct. 7 when a Denver district court hears the case. Gessler is suing Denver County Clerk Debra Johnson over her decision to send mail ballots to active and inactive voters this year. Active voters are those who took part in the 2010 election or freshened their registration since then. Inactive voters didn’t take part in the 2010 election or respond to postcards or queries to renew their registration.

Colorado: Gessler: No to mailing ballots to inactive voters | The Pueblo Chieftain

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz wanted an answer Thursday from Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to a simple question but one heavily laced with politics: Could Ortiz send out roughly 70 mail ballots to registered county voters in the military, but who did not vote in the 2010 election? “I want an order from the secretary’s office by Friday (today) saying that I cannot send out those ballots because I believe I should under the (Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act),” Ortiz said Thursday morning.

He got his answer at closing time Thursday. Gessler’s letter to Ortiz said the secretary of state was sticking to his position that no inactive voters should get ballots sent to them this election — including out-of-area military voters, or those “covered” by the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act.

“A covered voter who is registered to vote may apply for a ballot. Ballots are not automatically sent to covered voters,” Gessler’s letter said. “Thus, Pueblo County may only send mail ballots to inactive voters who submit a timely request as required by the (Act).” Perusing the letter Thursday night, Ortiz said Gessler had provided an order as asked.

Colorado: Elections Subcommittee Democrats Seek Investigation of Colorado Secretary of State | Committee on House Administration

In a letter to Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General in the Civil rights Division of the Department of Justice, Congressmen Bob Brady and Charles A. Gonzalez, the Ranking Members of the Committee on House Administration and its Subcommittee on Elections, respectively, have requested an investigation into actions taken by Colorado Secretary of State, Scott Gessler. Last week, Sec. Gessler petitioned the Denver District Court for an injunction to prevent the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s office from mailing ballots to eligible voters ahead of the November 01, 2011, election simply because they hadn’t voted in the last general election.

“No right is mentioned more times in the Constitution than the right to vote,” said Rep. Gonzalez. “It is the responsibility of every public official to ensure that eligible citizens are not denied that right. Secretary Gessler, instead, has taken steps that could prevent Coloradans’ civic participation. The Voting Section of the Department of Justice exists to protect this foundation of our democracy.”

Denver City and County Clerk and Record Debra Johnson has called this “a fundamental issue of fairness and of keeping voting accessible to as many eligible voters as possible” and the maps her office released suggest that districts with large minority populations would be particularly hard hit by Gessler’s rule. The congressmen were also concerned that eligible and registered voters who had missed the last election because of a disability or because they were deployed abroad at the time might miss their chance to vote this year.

Colorado: 17,687 Pueblo County CO ballots in limbo | The Pueblo Chieftain

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz intends to send out 17,687 mail ballots to inactive local voters if given the go-ahead by the state courts, he said Thursday. Secretary of State Scott Gessler filed suit this week against Denver County over its plan to send ballots this year to roughly 38,000 inactive voters. Pueblo County is the only other county in the state where local officials have indicated they also intend to send ballots to inactive voters.

Gessler told Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson this week that state law no longer permits ballots to be sent to inactive voters — meaning those voters who failed to vote in the last general election and have not responded to prompts by local county clerks to confirm their registration.

The crux of the issue is a state law that “sunset” this year, which formerly required clerks to send ballots to active and inactive voters alike. Johnson and Ortiz both took the position this year that the requirement is still in effect.