BROOMFIELD – Critics railed against election errors – and lack of transparency – at the Broomfield City Council meeting Tuesday night before the counselors met privately in an executive session to seek legal advice from County Attorney Bill Tuthill.
Tuthill advised election officials this week to essentially ignore election irregularities because the previous vote tallies were certified, and to implement rules and restrictions on providing documentation requested by authorized poll watchers.
“The transparency in the election has been hot and cold,” said Harvie Branscomb, an authorized watcher to ensure the integrity of the election. “When the county attorney (Tuthill) gets involved, the process slows down dramatically.”
The impediment to review records, Harvie told the city council during public comment, limits the ability of watchers to evaluate information and potentially reconcile discrepancies before the second recount slated to begin Dec. 2.
Of great concern is that the number of ballot count irregularities exceeds the slim margin of votes for and against Question 300, a controversial initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing for a five-year period in Broomfield.
The measure failed by 13 votes on Nov. 5, but then passed by 17 votes when overseas and provisional ballots were added later. Both tallies triggered recounts.
Broomfield City and County Manager Charles Ozaki sent an email on Nov. 22 to council members, stating that recent analysis by the Secretary of State’s office 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.”
Ozaki told counselors that HB 1303 “provides that the result of any election to determine a ballot issue may be contested on the grounds ‘that illegal votes were received or legal votes were rejected at the polls in sufficient numbers to change the result of the election.’”
“What we have here is essentially a tie election that has exposed the overall flaws in the system,” said Shawn Mitchell, attorney and former state senator from Broomfield.
Mitchell said the errors stemmed from “conflicting (election) laws, human error, mistakes on election night (and) on the after process.”
House Bill 1303, a so-called election reform act signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, conflicts with existing election laws. For example HB 1303 requires 22-day residency period to be eligible to vote but that conflicts with 25-day and 30-day residency thresholds to vote on issues and candidates in school district and municipal or county elections, respectively.
“What we have seen here is the will of the voters has been absolutely suppressed by the government, in this case the elections department, deciding that they will control the people’s voice,” declared Marilyn Marks of The Citizen Center and authorized watcher.
Broomfield’s elections department, Marks said, seems to forget that “elections belong to the people – not the government.”
Marks told the city council that their county attorney and election department officials were aware that the election count was incorrect and shouldn’t have been certified. Yet, she said they essentially told the canvass board members, “Sorry that’s not your job to worry about integrity or accuracy – just put your name on it and let’s move on.”
During the public comment, no one spoke on behalf of the fracking-ban proponents; however, a few opponents voiced their concerns.
“What a mess we have,” declared Broomfield business Tom Cave, who with his wife Camille, complained to city counselors about the election irregularities and failure to investigate errors that led to disenfranchising eligible voters.
“Months ago a web of national environmental groups pushing frack bans all across the country showed up in our community,” he said. “In this wild-eyed adventure, Broomfield became their testing ground.”
“A network of fractivists eager to exploit this new era of election chaos have turned the Broomfield election into a literal mockery,” complained Cave. “The Broomfield de-fracking election has the unarguable stench of impropriety.”
Deeming the election is a “statewide embarrassment,” Cave urged counselors to “nip this mess in the bud.”