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.
Samantha Johnston, executive director of the Colorado Press Association, said there is an argument to be made for keeping ballots open records, and the press association is working with a coalition formed by Secretary of State Scott Gessler to find that balance.
“We wholeheartedly believe that voted ballots are a public record; however, we understand some of the concerns raised by the clerks,” she said. “We don’t have any answers yet, though.”
Current law allows anyone to get a list of Coloradans who cast their ballot, and by what method they used, such as mail-in or electronic voting machine.
Reiner said operatives for both major political parties routinely get such lists because they use them to track trends and to know which voters, by name, to target in the future. The law requires the clerks to maintain a detailed record of each election, which is needed in case results are challenged or a recount is necessary.