open records

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Colorado: Veto pressure mounts as Hickenlooper reviews open-records elections bill | The Colorado Independent

In the weeks since the Colorado legislative session ended, calls for Gov. John Hickenlooper toveto House Bill 1036 have come from the political left, right and center, from government watchdog organizations, citizen rights and tax reform activists and from representatives of the sovereign Ute Mountain Ute tribe in southwest Colorado. Whatever happens by next Friday, when the deadline to sign the bill arrives, wrangling over its contents and legitimacy will continue indefinitely. “Litigation will follow a signature from the governor. It’s a certainty,” Jennifer Weddle, attorney for the Ute Mountain Ute, told the Colorado Independent. She said the tribe is deeply concerned the bill would limit protection against the kind of voter suppression efforts that have plagued Indian voters in the United States for decades. “Whether a suit is filed by the [tribe], by an individual member of the tribe or by a Colorado citizen, the process by which the bill was passed was so broken that litigation is certain.”

Full Article: Veto pressure mounts as Hickenlooper reviews open-records elections bill | The Colorado Independent.

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.

Full Article: Ballot review open only to select parties? | Colorado Statesman.

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.

Full Article: Ballot review open only to select parties? | Colorado Statesman.

Colorado: Groups urge veto of limits on voted-ballot inspections | The Denver Post

A growing coalition is asking Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto a bill that creates rules for public inspection of voted ballots, saying it is “an unprecedented step” to block the public’s right to ensure fair elections that was “ramrodded” through the legislature in its final days. Among those who have contacted Hickenlooper or plan to do so are members of the Colorado Lawyers Committee Election Task Force, the chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, Colorado Common Cause, Colorado Ethics Watch and two election-integrity groups. “The reality of this legislation is that at the most critical time, when the public has an interest in clerks’ management of elections, it creates an unprecedented exemption from (the Colorado Open Records Act),” said John Zakhem, a prominent elections attorney.

Full Article: Colorado groups urge veto of limits on voted-ballot inspections - The Denver Post.

Colorado: Groups urge veto of limits on voted-ballot inspections | The Denver Post

A growing coalition is asking Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto a bill that creates rules for public inspection of voted ballots, saying it is “an unprecedented step” to block the public’s right to ensure fair elections that was “ramrodded” through the legislature in its final days. Among those who have contacted Hickenlooper or plan to do so are members of the Colorado Lawyers Committee Election Task Force, the chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, Colorado Common Cause, Colorado Ethics Watch and two election-integrity groups. “The reality of this legislation is that at the most critical time, when the public has an interest in clerks’ management of elections, it creates an unprecedented exemption from (the Colorado Open Records Act),” said John Zakhem, a prominent elections attorney.

Full Article: Colorado groups urge veto of limits on voted-ballot inspections - The Denver Post.

Colorado: Marks prevails in Jefferson County CO case | AspenTimes.com

A District Court judge has deemed election records in Jefferson County open to public review and has awarded attorney’s fees to Aspen election activist Marilyn Marks, who was denied access to the information. Judge Randall Arp, in a ruling issued Monday, directed Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Pamela Anderson to provide the records requested by Marks and rejected the clerk’s claim that release of the information could violate voter rights to an anonymous ballot. Any information that could potentially lead to identification of an individual voter who cast a ballot could be redacted, Arp concluded. Marks said Tuesday that her legal expenses in the case total about $100,000. Jefferson is among several counties in Colorado where Marks has asked to view ballots or other election data under the Colorado Open Records Act, or CORA, helping fuel statewide debate about whether ballots cast by voters should be subject to the open-records law.

Full Article: Marks prevails in Jefferson County case | AspenTimes.com.

Kansas: Secretary of State Kobach says group trying to discredit voter ID law | KansasCity.com

A voter advocacy group claimed Thursday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s 2011-2012 office calendar contains gaps and inconsistencies, suggesting that he spends too much time working on issues unrelated to his office.But Kobach, a Republican, defended his work ethic and said the critics were simply misreading his schedule. “My calendar principally just includes my appointments and scheduled interviews,” he said. “The time that’s not scheduled is the time like right now when I’m working on documents, reading court cases …. The claim they are making is completely unsupported by the calendar.”

Full Article: Kansas Secretary of State Kobach says group trying to discredit voter ID law - KansasCity.com.

Colorado: Ballot bill passes Colorado Senate committee | The Pueblo Chieftain

A Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday that would limit when completed ballots can be inspected, despite objections from voters’ rights advocates who said the documents should be publicly available on demand. Lawmakers introduced SB155 in response to a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling that affirmed ballots are subject to inspection under the Colorado Open Records Act. It would limit the availability of ballots around election time and institute safeguards to prevent individual voters’ ballots from being traced back to them. “It’s not a problem for Pueblo, because our ballots aren’t being requested under CORA,” said Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz, who supports the bill. “Our job is to protect voter privacy. That’s why we need this. Transparency is important, but voter privacy is sacred.” The bill would shield ballots from inspection for 45 days preceding an election through a recount time period. Sponsors said that would prevent the inspection process from compromising the election process.

Full Article: Ballot bill passes Senate committee - The Pueblo Chieftain: Colorado State And Regional News.

Colorado: Voters file suit against Gessler, six county clerks over ballots | The Denver Post

A group of Colorado voters filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Scott Gessler and six county clerks today, saying their election practices are unconstitutional because they allow some ballots to be traced to the person who cast them. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, argues that voters in those counties are being deprived of their right to a secret vote, and asks a federal judge to order the practices stopped. “The right to a secret ballot is a revered principle of American democracy,” said Marilyn Marks, a voting integrity activist who founded Citizen Center, the group that filed the lawsuit. “No one, most particularly government officials, should have access to information that can connect ballots with voters,” Marks said.

Full Article: Voters file suit against Gessler, six county clerks over ballots - The Denver Post.

Colorado: Traceable ballots could sabotage Colorado elections in 2012 | Center Post Dispatch

As Colorado shapes up to be a swing state during the 2012 General Election, suggested changes to Secretary of State (SOS) rules governing election integrity and transparency could further endanger Coloradoans’ rights to an anonymous ballot and honest elections.

Those hoping for a fair election outcome in a crucial race for the White House will instead probably face relaxed security precautions for already compromised electronic voting devices. They also could be faced with a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) blackout that would deny access to key election documents for nearly 90 days during the election cycle.

The CORA block would prevent poll watchers, media, and ordinary citizens from examining ballots, and would delay and restrict examination of logs, poll books, and other essential election information in the event of a disputed election. This even after Colorado Sec. of State Scott Gessler won a lawsuit in August 2011 against Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers, with District Judge Martin Gonzales ruling that ballots are public records and Gessler as well as ordinary citizens have a right to request and inspect them.

Full Article: Center Post Dispatch Traceable ballots could sabotage Colorado elections in 2012.

Voting Blogs: Colorado’s super-secret ballots | State of Elections

Colorado is currently in the midst of a heated legal dispute over whether images of local ballots should be made available for public scrutiny in an election dispute. The controversy started in 2009, when Marilyn Marks lost the Aspen city mayoral election to Mick Ireland. Marks petitioned to view images of the anonymous ballots (sometimes referred to as TIFF files), but the city denied her request.

She then filed suit in state court under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA), but the district court ruled against her. She appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court in September of this year, holding that the contents of the ballots should be released.

The substance of the issue is that the city contends that the images constitute ballots, and thus are barred from public release by the provision of Colorado’s constitution which protects the secrecy of ballots as well as local regulations as to the disposal of ballots. The Court of Appeals’ holding rejected both of these arguments, holding that the images are not ballots, and that the state constitutional protection only extends to the identity of the voter, not to the substance of the ballot.

Full Article: CO (secret ballots): Colorado’s super-secret ballots : State of Elections.

Colorado: Ballot transparency a statewide debate | AspenTimes.com

A candidate’s request to inspect ballots cast in Aspen’s 2009 municipal election has set in motion similar efforts around Colorado. The end result might be new rules that govern the review of ballots or that withhold them from public inspection altogether.

Meanwhile, Aspen resident and 2009 mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks is expected to review on Tuesday 100 ballots cast in Pitkin County’s Nov. 1 election. Rather than simply eye the ballots, though, Marks has suggested that county Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill and a group of election officials look over 100 to 200 ballots with Marks and discuss whether any of them are “identifiable.”

The potential to link a voter to a particular ballot via various election information that is available to the public through the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) has emerged as a concern among county clerks across the state as they respond to ballot requests from Marks and others.

Full Article: Ballot transparency a statewide debate | AspenTimes.com.

Colorado: Election Commission punts request to view ballots | AspenTimes.com

The battle over ballots at Aspen City Hall continues. On Tuesday, the Aspen Election Commission decided to punt on two public-records requests to view ballots that were cast in the city’s 2011 municipal election held in May.

Commissioner Ward Hauenstein said that while he favors an open and transparent government, he received outside advice from a Denver attorney who said the Election Commission could not rule on the matter because it isn’t the custodian of election records.

“According to information provided by you, the Aspen Election Commission does not have personal custody of the paper ballots in question,” attorney John S. Zakhem wrote. “Therefore, the [commission] is not the custodian of the paper ballots and is not obligated to produce them in response to the [Colorado Open Records Act] request.”

Full Article: Election Commission punts request to view ballots | AspenTimes.com.

Colorado: Voters’ secret ballots may not be so secret after ruling | GJSentinel.com

The state’s county clerks plan to ask the Colorado Legislature when it reconvenes in January to make ballots exempt from the Colorado Open Records Act. The clerks say a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling in August that ballots are public records has turned election law on its head and could allow someone to find out how people voted, no matter how careful clerks are in guarding voter secrecy. But fixing the problem could be more problematic than most people think, Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner said.

Reiner and Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson, who are facing identical lawsuits demanding to make their ballots public, say doing so would identify individual voters and how they voted. As a result, they think ballots should be made exempt from open-records laws. … Some people disagree, saying a balance can be struck that maintains election transparency without violating secrecy laws.

Full Article: Voters' secret ballots may not be so secret after ruling | GJSentinel.com.

Colorado: Aspen election commissioner wants outside opinion | AspenTimes.com

A member of the Aspen Election Commission said he is seeking a “second opinion” from an outside attorney on whether the commission should approve two public-records requests to inspect paper ballots cast in May’s municipal election. During Wednesday’s commission meeting, member Ward Hauenstein asked City Attorney John Worcester for his legal opinions on the matter, but noted that he also has sought independent counsel. Hauenstein said he likely will ask the Aspen City Council to pay for the outside legal fees at an upcoming meeting.

In his capacity as city attorney, Worcester also provides legal advice to city boards and commissions, such as the Election Commission. But he also is representing the city in its battle against political activist Marilyn Marks’ lawsuit, which stems from the city clerk’s denial of her request to examine ballot images from the 2009 mayor’s race.

Full Article: Aspen election commissioner wants outside opinion | AspenTimes.com.

Editorials: Colorado county clerks crying wolf | Vincent Carroll/The Denver Post

Get ready for a battle royal over the integrity of elections in Colorado — and just in time for this state’s apparently pivotal role in the 2012 presidential race. If the clash shapes up as expected, lawmakers will have to choose sides between a would-be election priesthood exempt from public oversight — I’m referring to the county clerks — and advocates for a fully open and accountable government.

The clerks, you see, are in a panic about a recent appeals court ruling that says voted ballots are public documents under the Colorado Open Records Act, so long as “the identity of the voter cannot be discerned from the face of that ballot.”

The court’s definition should include the vast majority of ballots, assuming election officials and voters follow the law. But if you listen to the clerks, you’d think the opposite. Embracing Chicken Little as their role model, the clerks’ association issued a statement after the ruling, claiming it “has removed the curtain from our voting booths. Most Coloradans believe their votes should be a secret from their friends, coworkers and even spouses, but today’s ruling means Coloradans’ personal choices can be seen by anyone who asks.” The clerks’ statement is either contemptible fear-mongering or an admission that they supervise a system that comprehensively thumbs its nose at the state constitution’s mandate of anonymous ballots.

Full Article: Carroll: County clerks crying wolf - The Denver Post.

Colorado: Pitkin County to release a handful of ballots | Aspen Daily News

The Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office will grant Marilyn Marks’ request to inspect a handful of ballots cast in the 2010 election, County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill announced Monday.

Specifically, Marks — an Aspen resident and a self-described election transparency activist — and anyone else who is interested, will be able to eyeball five to 10 of the ballots from precinct 6, which mostly encompasses Snowmass Village. The review will be conducted Thursday under the watchful eye of Vos Caudill and county elections manager Dwight Shellman, as well as video cameras.

Marks and other observers will not be able to touch the ballots, which will be returned to the ballot box after the review. “What I’m trying to do is break the ice,” Marks said, acknowledging that Thursday’s limited review will be mostly symbolic in her quest for election transparency. “We just need to get used to the idea that this is no big deal … [and] demonstrate to the press and the council that ballots are anonymous.” 

Full Article: PitCo to release a handful of ballots | Aspen Daily News Online.

Colorado: Marks seeks the release of Pitkin County ballots | Aspen Daily News

A recent Court of Appeals ruling that voted ballots are accessible public records is being put to the test. Marilyn Marks has submitted a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, seeking to inspect a sample of voted ballots from the 2010 election.

Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill said she is reviewing Marks’ request with County Attorney John Ely. Her office has yet to decide whether to grant the open records filing, and has asked for seven additional days to respond, while normally she would have to answer in three. The extra time, which Marks said is OK with her, puts the deadline at Oct. 18.

The Colorado Court of Appeals released a ruling on Sept. 29 which sided with Marks in her case against the city of Aspen. Marks sued the city after officials denied her CORA request to inspect digital copies of ballots from the May 2009 municipal election, in which Marks was a losing mayoral candidate. The election was also the first and only in the city to use instant runoff voting, a system where voters ranked candidate preferences and those choices were used to simulate later runoff contests.

Full Article: Marks seeks the release of Pitkin County ballots | Aspen Daily News Online.

Colorado: Aspen to appeal ruling over ballot images | AspenTimes.com

In a somewhat expected move, the city of Aspen has decided to appeal last week’s state appellate court judgment that said local political activist Marilyn Marks has a right to inspect ballot images from the 2009 mayoral election. “The Aspen City Council has directed staff to appeal the Marks v. Koch case to the Colorado Supreme Court,” says a statement released Tuesday from the City Attorney’s Office. “At issue in the lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2009, is the right of citizens to expect that their cast ballots will remain secret.”

The city maintains that it is residents’ constitutional right to vote their consciences knowing that their ballots will remain “forever secret,” the prepared statement says. The lawsuit against City Clerk Kathryn Koch, who declined Marks’ request to view ballot images from the spring election that Marks lost, states that the Colorado Open Records Act and other state laws allow public ballot inspection as long as it is not possible to discern a voter’s identity. “This case is not about election transparency,” the city’s statement reads. “The 2009 municipal election was one of the most transparent elections in city and state history. This case involves the sanctity of the secret ballot.”

Full Article: Aspen to appeal ruling over ballot images | AspenTimes.com.

Colorado: Could new court ruling impact elections lawsuit against Mesa County? | NBCnews11

A woman suing Mesa County elections officials over the release of voting records scored a major victory Thursday. In a separate suit filed against the City of Aspen a judge ruled in her favor, saying digital copies of election ballots are open to public inspection. Now she’s hopeful that ruling will come into play as the case here moves forward.

Aspen resident Marilyn Marks made a request in August to see electronic scans of ballots cast here in Mesa County during the 2010 elections. Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Sheila Reiner denied part of that request, saying the way the ballots are organized in the digital files could reveal how individual citizens voted — violating their right to ballot secrecy. In early September, Marks filed suit against the Clerk’s office for the public release of the records.

Thursday was a good day for Marks, who describes herself as an elections activist. After a two year legal battle with the City of Aspen, she’ll be granted access to digital copies of ballots there, which she says is necessary to verify fair and accurate elections.

Full Article: Could new court ruling impact elections lawsuit against Mesa County?.