Questionable practices mar elections in several Colorado counties

Questionable practices mar elections in several Colorado counties

Election fraud—and its inverse, election integrity—was much on the mind of voters this election.

Nowhere was this more true than in Colorado, where new election laws codified bad practice. Project Veritas went underground in Denver to show how Democrats working in several different campaigns thought fraud was just fine.

To get a general picture of how fraud operates in elections, there’s no better place to start than John Fund’s 2008 book Stealing Elections.

For some current examples of shady practices, 2014 Colorado is one place to go.

Who’s watching?

The only way to ensure fair elections is to have the processes of handling and counting the ballots totally transparent. Colorado has several checks and balances to help insure transparency but some County Clerks don’t want to play by the rules.

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall was sued by Boulder County Republicans on November 3rd alleging election watchers were not allowed to observe the entire process of signature verification.

A pair of election judges from differing parties watch on a screen as the signature in the database and the signature on the ballot are compared side-by-side. Observing this process are election watchers from each party. If the two judges disagree about whether the signatures match, the ballot is then transferred to a second group of election judges who access information on screens that the election watchers cannot see.

Both judges must reject the signature for the ballot to be deemed invalid; only one judge’s approval is required for the vote to count.

Boulder District Court Judge Patrick Butler dismissed the lawsuit within hours and without holding a hearing, saying Hall had not been served and that, further, the clerk was not harming Michael Davis, the election watcher named in the suit.

An attorney for the county's office was served, however, according to court filings provided by both the county clerk's office and the county Republican Party.

Butler was appointed to his position in 2011 by Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper.

That is not the first time in this election that Clerk Hall has been in hot water. Just a few days earlier on October 28th, Boulder Country Republican Chair Ellyn Hilliard complained that some Republican election judges were in fact Democrats.

Hilliard said that when she visited the clerk's office to observe the mail ballot verification process, she did not recognize many of the election judges who county officials claimed represented the Republican Party in the bipartisan process. She said several appeared to be Democrats with Republican nametags.

She said she also saw judges approving signatures that, from her perspective, were clearly not those of the voters to whom those ballots were issued.

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert confirmed that state election officials visited the Boulder clerk's office and found some troubling inconsistencies with some election judges.

"One of them was a Democrat who had changed party affiliation on Oct. 10, so we are concerned that Boulder didn't follow the list, then resorted to advertising for these positions," said Staiert.

She said her office plans to run Boulder County's election judge roster through its voter database to see who is registered with what party and what their party registration history may be.

Multiple ballots are a problem

PolitiChicks reports that a scandal over duplicate ballots in Adams County Colorado continues to grow as Adams County GOP Vice Chair and poll watcher Jen Raiffie claimed that County Clerk Karen Long has significantly delayed in releasing data that could confirm multiple ballots are a statewide issue.

House Bill 13-1303 allows all inactive voters to receive ballots, including nearly 30,000 inactive voters in Adams County. (Statewide the number is over 727,000.) A proper merge of the old and new voting records did not happen, causing multiple ballots to be mailed to some voters, each with unique ballot and voter ID numbers.

Raiffie, an IT data specialist, said the merge problem has been a known concern since the legislation was introduced. She stressed that the data she is requesting is critical because there are no stopgaps in place to prevent multiple ballots from being voted.

As of this writing, Raiffe still has received no response to her requests for the raw data file or her outstanding daily reports that would either confirm or refute the presence of multiple votes.

This kind of behavior seems to be par for the course for Clerk Karen Long, as detailed by Watchdog Wire.

Elder Abuse

On Oct 23rd, journalist Nancy Wenlock visited The Villas at Sunny Acres, a nursing home in northern Adams County where voting was occurring. She was shocked by what she saw and the treatment she herself received—including being kicked off the premises by a policeman.

Colorado permits nursing homes and other care facilities to set up polling places on site in order to facilitate voting for those who are unable to make it to the polls, or who may require assistance to fill out their ballots. Such procedures are still required to be observed and monitored by two election judges, not of the same party, and are supposed to be open to media observation.

Watchdog Wire reported in great detail Mrs. Wenlock’s report. She was prevented from observing the process by nursing home staff, including Donetta Davidson, former Colorado Secretary of State, acting as an election consultant to Adams County.

Davidson is also Executive Director of the Colorado County Clerks Association. She supported election reforms enacted through the passage of House Bill 13-1303—which is widely referred to as the “Voter Fraud Bill.” The legislation changed Colorado’s election process into an all mail-in ballot election and enabled same-day voter registration without a valid ID. She also supported a bill in 2012 (HB 1036) that blocked media and voter watchdog groups access to ballots for examination in a timely manner.

House Bill 1303 actually gives an elections role to the Clerks Association, even though it is a private association.

Wenlock filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s office. As yet it has not been acted upon.

Unsupervised election officials can easily influence an elder’s vote—or even fill out the ballot themselves without the elder’s knowledge or consent. It is not unknown for there to be only one election judge present or for nursing home staff to fill out the ballots without any judges present.

A rare case of bipartisanship

All the election news is not bad. At Colorado College in Colorado Springs, there was an all-too-rare display of bipartisanship as the heads of the Democrat and Republican College student clubs set up a joint table in the Warner Center, where student mailboxes are located. The idea was to encourage students not to trash their ballots but rather to vote them intelligently.

No ballots were thrown in the trash and they collected about 50 ballots. Resources were available at the table, such as voting guides and candidate materials. Davis Tutt, head of the College Republicans, said some students used their phones to do internet research right then.

What makes a Colorado College student eligible to vote in Colorado? Residency requirements have been greatly reduced in the 1303 law but one does still have to be a legal resident to vote—and it is illegal to vote both in Colorado and the state you’re from.

As a private school, Colorado College doesn’t distinguish between in-state or out-of-state students for tuition or other purposes. A student’s Colorado College ID is sufficient proof of residency to get you a ballot.

The new voting law allows a person to turn in 10 ballots to the clerk and recorder’s office. Tutt said they turned in the 50 ballots ten at a time, and no one at the clerk’s office seemed to have a problem with that.

That was also true in Boulder, where an election judge was threatened with being fired for questioning the fact that individuals were turning in more than the legal limit of ten ballots. Some laws are made to be broken.

Conclusion

Certainly some election laws are better than others. The election process needs to be simple and verifiable. Voters need to be eligible to vote. Ballots need to remain secret. They need to be tracked from the time they are turned in until they are verified and counted—any beyond.

Elections need to belong to the people because the government belongs to the people—and not the other way around. The electorate deserves to have elections they can believe in.