Error-Riddled Election Sparks Lawsuit And Investigation

November 27, 2013
The Broomfield recount over a fracking ban vote

The Broomfield recount over a fracking ban vote looks like it’s headed to court

BROOMFIELD – The Broomfield County Clerk Jim Candelarie and Canvass Board member Joan Murahata decided Tuesday to push forward with the second recount of a contentious fracking ban initiative and ignore election errors that include denying eligible voters their right to cast ballots.

An estimated 29 ballot irregularities is greater than the close vote margin that required recounts.Question 300 to ban hydraulic fracturing failed by 13 votes on Nov. 5, but then passed by 17 votes after overseas and provisional ballots were added.

“The people of Broomfield are entitled to a fair election conducted by impartial officials,” said BJ Nikkel of Broomfield Balance Energy Coalition (BBEC) which opposes the fracking ban. “The lack of transparency doesn’t bode well for this election and shouldn’t be tolerated.”

Murahata is not an “impartial” election official – the Broomfield Democratic Party co-chair is also a member of Our Broomfield which campaigned for the fracking ban. Mark Grueskin, attorney for Our Broomfield, argued Monday against probing election irregularities and proceed with the final count – a position Murahata later echoed.

Canvass Board member Marty Robinson wanted to resolve questions about ballot irregularities listed by the Secretary of State’s office after a preliminary investigation. At least three ballots were cast by voters who might have been ineligible because they hadn’t lived in the county for 30 days.

Yet, it appears that 26 were eligible voters, but their ballots were not counted. Though these disenfranchised voters appear to have lived in the county for 30 days, the elections department required they fill out and sign residency affidavits. Some were filled out improperly, others were not returned by Nov. 5.

Broomfield election officials admitted the ballot counting flaws, but also threw up barricades to impede access to records requested by authorized poll watchers who hope to resolve discrepancies. The officials demanded that the poll watchers submit in writing their documentation requests by Monday.

“It is an inappropriate assignment for the Canvass Board to screen or schedule watcher access,” said Marilyn Marks of The Citizen Center. “Watchers have the right to verify each step in the conduct of the election.”

“I also object to arbitrary deadlines and consideration schedules being imposed on watchers and the requirement to make written requests for deliberation,” Marks wrote in an email to Broomfield County Attorney Bill Tuthill, Candelarie and Michael Susek, head of the elections department.

Nikkel reminded city officials Tuesday morning that the election is being watched by voters in Broomfield and the nation.

A few hours later, Nikkel sent a media release announcing that BBEC would take legal action to restore election integrity if the requested information is not released to watchers.

“How can Broomfield voters trust in future election transparency and integrity when their own city officials admitted that a number of discrepancies and irregularities occurred?” asked Nikkel. “Yet, they refuse to take ownership, reevaluate and remedy the errors and find solutions – outside of court.”

Canvass Board member Robinson agreed.

“These are precisely the type of discrepancies that could lead to litigation,” Robinson told fellow election officials. “The public watches this election – and it hasn’t been public enough.”

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