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.”