PARKER – The effort to seize four Douglas County School Board seats from reform candidates and elect union-backed candidates tested the meaning of “secret ballot” elections. Pro-union campaigners hosted a “Vote In” and screening of Brian Malone’s The Reformers film at The Wildlife Experience last week.
“Check your mail and bring your mail-in ballot with you to join us for a public group ‘Vote In’ at 7 p.m. right after the 5:30 p.m. screening of The Reformers Movie,” stated filmmaker’s Facebook page.
The “Vote In,” cosponsored by the pro-union group Speak for DCSD (Douglas County School District), drew about 150 people to the Parker event on Oct. 16 – a day after ballots were mailed.
It kicked off with activists painting the names of pro-union candidates – Barbra Chase Burke, Julie Keim, Bill Hodges and Rhonda Scholting – on cars in the parking lot. Ballots were filled out between two showings of The Reformers, a film critical of the current DCSD Board members.
Critics say the “Vote In” may conflict with the spirit of laws that protect the privacy of ballots and prohibit outside influence on how votes are cast. Yet it was union backers who made claims in the lead up to the event that their opponents were the ones pushing the limits of election rules.
However, the activists did express concerns about protecting ballot secrecy and being intimidated by outsiders who support the four reform school board candidates – Doug Benevento, Meghan Silverthorn and Judi Reynolds, incumbents, and James Geddes.
“Evidently, there are some in our community that are either confused about, or do not respect our rights to a free and open Democracy,” wrote Malone. “And some of them are bringing camera phones to video our vote.”
“Please do not allow these attempts of voter intimidation to affect you,” urged Malone. “You are the great people of Douglas County… And I have to say, it feels really great to be a member of this community and this democracy right now.”
Cherie Garcia-Lewis of Speak for DCSD echoed Malone’s sentiment.
“It is your right as an American to vote wherever the heck you want (as long as you do not show your completed ballot to anyone else or persuade anyone on how to vote),” said Garcia-Lewis.
The Vote-In participants were advised to cast their ballots in a bathroom stall, private corner of the room, inside a car or just shield their votes from prying eyes.
“But that in no way means you cannot bring your ballot to the theater to vote,” said Malone. “There is no law that limits where you can and cannot fill out your mail-in ballot.”
But Mark Cepull noted a loophole in the state election law.
“While it might be illegal to share your official ballot, it is within your right to free speech to print off the first page of a sample ballot and mark your suggested votes,” Cepull told Speak for DCSD fans on Facebook.
“Just make sure that anyone who can see your markings on this Sample Ballot cannot miss the ‘SAMPLE’ watermark across the front too,” advised Cepull.
Were voters influenced by the slate of pro-union candidate names painted on cars outside of The Wildlife Experience or The Reformers film message attacking reform school board members?
“We made The Reformers to ‘induce’ a public and open conversation about education reform,” Malone explained. “And that’s it.”
“I’m tired of all the anger; we’ve got to move above that and beyond it. This is about getting this community to stand up (and) decide what they want for their public school system,” Malone told Our Colorado News. “But if this county doesn’t wake up, we’ve got a real problem.”
“Right now I’m focused on getting this film in front of as many eyeballs as possible in Douglas County before the November election,” declared Malone.