As Election Irregularities Mount, Future of Broomfield Frack Ban in Doubt

November 23, 2013
By
Broomfield officials appeared to concede this week that a number of legitimate voters may have been disenfranchised in this month’s election, while others not entitled to vote may have cast ballots

Broomfield officials conceded that a number of legitimate voters may have been disenfranchised, while others not entitled to vote may have cast ballots

DENVER — Amid growing evidence of systematic irregularities that could potentially render an entire election invalid, officials in Broomfield may be fessing up.

In a damage control tactic normally reserved for political scandals, the city and county appeared to concede this week that a number of legitimate voters may have been disenfranchised, while others not entitled to vote may have cast ballots.

An email obtained by TCO sent by City and County Manager Charles Ozaki on November 22 to members of the council cites a recent analysis by the Secretary of State’s office which found that 27 votes that were excluded from the certified count could have been included; and that three votes that were counted should have been excluded.”

The admission is the latest example in what appears to be a string of irregularities.

The conservative political website Colorado Peak Politics suggested on November 14 that one prominent anti-fracking activist, Cliff Willmeng, may have “tried to escort an elderly woman in to get a ballot to vote” as recently as last week – several days after the election.

The site also reported information from sources alleging that the “[Broomfield] Clerk and Recorder is actively considering counting a FedEx package full of votes mailed from Boulder and received after the election date.”

The number of questionable votes in the Broomfield election – just a few dozen – exceeds the current margin in the race.

The controversial fracking ban proposal at the center of the controversy was defeated on Election Night by 13 votes.  A revised tally released November 14 showed the measure passing by 17 votes, after additional ballots were counted in a process observed by members of the media and the public.

According to Ozaki’s email, ballots from those entitled to vote in the election may have been improperly rejected because of paperwork problems, difficulty with signature verification and bureaucratic errors.

Additionally, the Ozaki email suggests that some ballots may have been improperly included in the count, even though the people who cast them “may not, in fact, have resided in Broomfield for 30 days.”

In one case, Ozaki describes a voter “who had legally changed her name and provided notice to the Elections Division, yet the change was not effective in the [official] election database.  The voter subsequently received and returned a signature affidavit with the required identification, but her ballot was excluded from the certified count because election judges could not verify her signature…”

“Close elections reveal the flaws in our system, and Broomfield’s vote on the fracking ban shows how [House Bill] 1303 made things much worse,” said appointed election-watcher for Our Broomfield, Too, Shawn Mitchell.

House Bill 1303, a Democrat-backed bill signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper earlier this year, made substantial and controversial revisions to Colorado election laws.

“Arrogant Democrats jammed through same-day registration and voting, but they forgot that local governments have different registration standards,” added Mitchell, who is also a former state lawmaker.  “Their rewrite of the [election] rules [has] probably made this vote unsalvageable.”

Critics have also raised concerns about several ballots cast after the Broomfield clerk sent “Self-Affirmation of Elector” documents to several voters.

More than 20 of those documents were delivered to a single nursing home and filled out by one staff member from the clerk’s office – all handwritten and dated, “11/5/2013.”

At least one of those ballots was cast by a voter who died prior to Election Day.

Ozaki’s email closes by informing council members that state law “provides that the result of any election to determine a ballot issue may be contested on the ground ‘that illegal votes were received or legal votes were rejected at the polls in sufficient numbers to change the result of the election.’”

“This mess is going to cost the taxpayers of Broomfield scores of thousands of dollars to remedy — likely through both litigation and a new election,” said Marilyn Marks, President of Citizen Center, a non-profit and non-partisan group focused on government transparency and election integrity. “The shame of it is that the will of the people cannot be determined without another vote, and that was so very avoidable at many points along the way.”

Ozaki’s email update to council members ends by notifying officials that the staff plans to seek an “executive session” for the City Council “for the purpose of receiving legal advice on election matters” prior to Tuesday’s council meeting.

Executive sessions are not open to the public.

Concerns about the integrity of Colorado elections have reached beyond Broomfield in recent days.

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler filed charges Friday against two voters and two canvassers affiliated with a liberal campaign group in Denver.

“I don’t think fraud is epidemic, and we demonstrated that,” said Brauchler of the Arapahoe County case. “Out of 41 names, we got two that we think were prosecutable, and we found two more. But I think it is ripe for fraud.”

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

7 Responses to As Election Irregularities Mount, Future of Broomfield Frack Ban in Doubt

  1. Marilyn Marks
    November 23, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Over 25 long time Broomfield voters had their votes on this question redacted and not counted. Broomfield residents who moved from one Broomfield address to another during the month before the election were properly issued ballots with the fracking question on it, and they likely voted on the question. So far, so good. But the City incorrectly measured Broomfield voter eligibility from the “current address” move in date, failing to recognize that the affected voters had lived in Broomfield all along, and were eligible voters. Officials redacted these voters’ Broomfield votes from the ballots, and did not count their votes on Broomfield issues. Now it is too late, as the anonymous ballots are comingled.

    I personally pleaded with the City Attorney and City Clerk not to rush to comingle those ballots until they were sure that they were not stripping Broomfield residents of their right to vote. They countered that an immediate result and “finality” were more important to the people of Broomfield than an attempt to sort this out before it was too late.

    I doubt we will see that “finality” for quite a long time.

  2. November 23, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    I am a credentialed “watcher” in this election and have observed the post election process. There are several errors of fact in the article, located within the quotes that were taken from Peak Politics and the City Manager’s email.

    Regardless of the errors of sources quoted by the article – the conclusion I have reached by watching the process is that Colorado’s vote-by-mail may easily result in disenfranchisement that the voter is unaware of. The original vote-in-person method at a precinct polling place did not have this weakness, and it had many other excellent integrity features including easy citizen involvement and oversight. My experience in watching the new election mechanism has been anything but easy. Yet I am in a position to make corrections on the quotes in the article.

    Peak Politics is quoted as saying “[Broomfield] Clerk and Recorder is actively considering counting a FedEx package full of votes mailed from Boulder and received after the election date.”

    This is misleading. I have observed the FedEx envelope and contents myself and heard the Clerk address this issue. Neither is Clerk Candelarie nor is any election judge actively considering counting the contents of this FedEx package. The contents are 10 signed Broomfield ballot envelopes presumably containing marked ballots that were received at a Boulder elections department instead of Broomfield. Several were officially stamped as received on November 2 and November 4. They were not opened for counting and no one else has actively pursued their inclusion. Boulder officials couriered them to Broomfield too late to arrive by the election day deadline.

    City Manager Ozaki is quoted concerning a woman “who had legally changed her name and provided notice…” alleging that “her ballot was excluded from the certified count because election judges could not verify her signature…” This ballot was not counted but the reason was the result of a county mistake and then lack of proper affidavit, not just a failure of the initial signature comparison. Her name had changed and she had properly notified the county well in advance of the election. The name change was not made in the elections database. Therefore the judges were initially looking for the wrong name to match to the signature. The unsuspecting voter then received the standard letter containing an affidavit to sign and return to affirm she had returned a voted ballot. She attempted to cure the signature discrepancy by sending a fax but did not provide exactly the necessary three items- an affidavit with a particular checkbox checked, any signature on the affidavit and a copy of an ID that satisfied election law. Its true that a validated signature is not needed on such an affidavit to confirm that “I returned my voted ballot” in Broomfield and possibly elsewhere in the state depending on local interpretation of law.

    This voter did attempt to cure after receiving the letter and blank affidavit, but faxed an ID that came in unreadable and failed to return the affidavit letter with the checkbox. So the vote was not counted for reason of a staff mistake well before the election followed by a failure of the would-be voter (unfortunate victim of unintended error) to follow directions on an official letter. This is a letter any voter might receive when their eligibility to vote in a mail-ballot election is questioned by election judges for reason of mismatching signature. Yes, any signature on the affidavit with a copy of an ID (e.g. utility bill) and checked box would have satisfied the requirements and yes, this seems absurd. Even so, her attempt to cure was rejected even after a well intentioned watcher challenge that attempted to serve the harmed elector and include the vote.

    Residency eligibility issues are an absurd consequence of the new HB 13-1303 all-mail-ballot law. School board elections and municipal elections require different advance residency than the State of Colorado. Broomfield asked an insufficient question on a self-affirmation form when determining the eligibility of its voters for school board and municipal contests. Some voters who already lived within Broomfield and indicated they moved within 30 days of election day were not allowed to vote on the municipal issues including the one with a 17 vote margin- and these voters may not realize that they were inappropriately and selectively disenfranchised by not counting part of the ballot they marked. And their votes might have determined the outcome of the fracking ban.

    Citizens may want to focus more attention on how these new election laws fail to function fairly and ask their legislators and election officials to bring back eligibility checks and voting in person so that voters who care will be able to know whether they are voting or not.

    Harvie Branscomb
    election quality evangelist
    harvie at electionquality dot com

  3. bill
    November 25, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Power does NOT lie with the people who vote. The power lies with the people who count the vote.

  4. February 17, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Once the movie was shot, I would put the scene into play.
    In terms of cost, living in London is generally more expensive than living
    outside the City. Cleaning windows is easy when you are on the
    ground floor, but what about upper floors.

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