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.
Judge Gonzales’ decision was later upheld by an appeals court decision granting Aspen election-integrity advocate Marilyn Marks the right to inspect and copy photocopies of ballots cast during her bid as a candidate for mayor of Aspen, Colorado, in 2009.
Despite these clear rulings by the courts, for the past several months the Colorado County Clerks and Recorder’s Association (CCCRA) has been lobbying to obstruct CORA requests for ballots, most of them made by Marks, and has openly questioned the Colorado Appeals Court decision. Further, the City of Aspen has appealed the appellate ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court.
According to the general consensus of the clerks, no one should actually be able to verify an election once they have “counted” the ballots, or rather their contractors and voting machines have produced numbers telling the citizenry who “won.”
Even more worrisome to election integrity activists, however, is the claim by several CCCRA clerks who recently admitted that they know how to trace actual ballots back to the citizens who voted them and that this can be easily done given the right circumstances. It is thought by some involved in preserving election integrity that rules proposed by Sec. Gessler’s staff Dec. 7 in Denver represent a reversal of Gessler’s previous stance that ballots are open records and an adoption of CCCRA’s “sacred ballot” position. In short, citizens would not be able to see the ballots to verify the election results and county clerks and their staff can often tell how citizens voted.