BROOMFIELD – The second ballot recount of the controversial five-year fracking ban was scheduled Wednesday but now is postponed because of complaints that the Broomfield Canvass Board had not given the required 24-hour advance public notice – and that the Broomfield Clerk and Recorder improperly issued ballots to individuals who were not eligible to vote on the issue.
Confusion stemmed from the elections reform act, House Bill 1313, passed by Democrat legislators and signed into law by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper this year, which allows same-day voter registration and only requires 22 days residency in a jurisdiction.
That rule conflicts with Broomfield’s residency requirement of 30 days, which was the eligibility threshold to vote on the Question 300 to prohibit fracking in the city and county.
Yet, Broomfield County Clerk and Recorder Jim Candelarie reportedly ignored the residency requirements. His office doled out ballots to new voters – and didn’t think to check their residency duration to confirm their eligibility to vote on the Broomfield fracking ban until weeks later.
Candelarie mailed “Self-Affirmation of Elector” documents to hundreds of voters, asking them to state how long they had lived in Broomfield and to sign the affidavit. And his staffer delivered those documents on Election Day to seniors in a nursing home.
Unknown is how many “Self-Affirmation” documents were returned – at least 55 were but their ballots had reportedly been misplaced and not counted in the election.
At least 22 of those documents delivered to the nursing home were filled out by one staff member from Candelarie’s office – all handwritten and dated, “11/5/2013” – and several noted that the individuals were too sick to sign them.
One “Self-Affirmation” document executed by Candelarie’s staffer stated that the voter had cast her ballot in October, and then died two days later. Though she had stated residency in excess of 30 days, a member of the clerk and recorder’s office said it was highly unlikely that her vote would count because she died before Nov. 5.
Former El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink told The Colorado Observer that her vote should have been counted because elections in this state occur over several weeks – not one Election Day which is now considered a deadline.
Ballot Question 300 was originally rejected by a margin of 13 votes, but then passed by 17 votes after a recount last week. But that recount also raised criticisms that Candelarie and the Canvass Board had failed to give public notice.
Though there hasn’t been any hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas in Broomfield, Question 300 would enforce a five-year ban on fracking and prohibit disposal or open pit storage of solid or liquid wastes.
In addition to the complaint regarding residency requirements to vote in the Broomfield election, were complaints that Candelarie and his Canvass Board have failed to abide by laws that ensure transparency in processing ballots.
“The Canvass Board has the legal duty to conduct the recount, and obviously will be meeting as a public body in public session to do so. Yet we have not found a public notice of that meeting,” said Marilyn Marks of Citizen Center.
“As noted in the (Secretary of State) Rules, the press and media observers are permitted to observe the recount,” Marks said in an email to Broomfield City Council members and County Clerk and Recorder Jim Candelarie.
“Without public notice, their ability to be the public’s eyes and ears is hindered,” declared Marks.
Marks, Al Kolwicz of Colorado Voter Group and Jeff Orrok, state chair of the Libertarian Party, again asked that the recount be postponed to ensure public notice was given 24 hours in advance.
“We join the Citizen Center and the Libertarian Party in their appeals that Broomfield play by the rules and conduct the recount in the open,” said Kolwicz. “It would be shameful to do otherwise.”
“It’s about transparency,” Kolwicz told The Colorado Observer. He said that allowing journalists, poll watchers and others independent of government help to protect the integrity of the election.
Like Citizen Center, the Colorado Voter Group is focused on ensuring the integrity and legality of elections.
Candelarie gave assurances last week that all ballots were located and counted. According to election laws, the recount must be performed and completed by Dec. 5.