DENVER – The Colorado Secretary of State’s office produced a report listing numerous irregularities and illegal procedures in the Broomfield City and County election which may have disenfranchised more than 100 voters.
Despite widespread problems with the election process cited by the Secretary of State’s office, Broomfield intends to proceed with a ballot recount Monday on Question 300, a proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing.
State election laws mandate that the recount must be performed by Dec. 5.
The number of disenfranchised voters is particularly troubling given that the controversial measure passed by a mere 17 votes according to the Broomfield election officials after a preliminary recount last week – reversing the Election Night result which showed the measure failing by 13 votes.
According to the report, shortly after the election, Jim Candelarie, the only clerk and recorder in the state who is hired and not elected, contacted the Secretary of State’s office to obtain guidance on how to conduct the first recount.
“During these conversations, it became clear to the Office that the Clerk may have committed several errors in conducting the election,” reported the Secretary of State’s office, which also said that Candelarie did not follow their guidelines.
The list of Broomfield election problems cited by the Secretary of State’s office include:
“Failing to correctly determine voter eligibility;
“Instituting an incomplete and faulty process in an attempt to rectify the failure to correctly determine voter eligibility;
“Illegally and improperly updating voters’ residential addresses;
“Illegally issuing ballots from drop-off locations away from the Clerk’s office;
“Improperly counting ballots cast by ineligible voters; and
“Improperly rejecting ballots cast by eligible voters.”
As The Colorado Observer reported this month, the Broomfield elections department allowed ballots to be cast and weeks later attempted to verify the residency duration of voters. The affidavit asked three questions but failed to clarify that the inquiries pertained to the duration of a voter’s residency in Broomfield County – not just their current address.
The election reform act, House Bill 1303, passed this year and signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper allows for same-day voter registration and a 22-day residency requirement – but that conflicts with existing laws regarding municipal, and school board and special district elections which require residency durations of 30 and 25 days, respectively.
“The Clerk misapplied state and local residency requirements, which led to the rejection of valid votes and the acceptance of invalid votes,” stated the Colorado Secretary of State’s report which also said that the office had provided “guidance and training” to the county elections department.
“The Clerk had notice of this rule and the various residency requirements,” the report noted, but the Broomfield Elections Department mailed ballots without reviewing residency records to determine whether voters were eligible to vote in different elections.
“The Clerk did not inform the Secretary of State of his error and did not seek guidance on the proper remedy,” stated the report. Instead Candelarie sent random hit-and-miss “Self-Affirmation” affidavits to voters to validate their residency, sign and return the forms.
At least 41 electors, who voted in the election but did not return the residency forms, were mailed a second affidavit after the Nov. 5 election – but those forms were not updated to clarify that questions apply to the voter’s residency duration in the county and municipality.
Of those, 30 voters returned the affidavits, but may not have understood the residency question and 10 did not respond. According to the report, their ballots were duplicated and votes counted only for statewide election issues.
“Due in part to Broomfield’s inadequate record keeping, as of the date of this report, it remains unclear how many voters were prohibited from voting in races in which they were eligible, including Ballot Question 300,”stated the report.
Another 100 mailed ballots that were returned by the U.S. Postal Service with forwarding addresses should have been entered as “inactive” in the state database. Instead, the Broomfield Elections Department input the new addresses and forwarded ballots.
Forwarding these ballots also violated state election laws – and potentially disqualified these voters’ ballots.
Uncounted were 11 ballots – 10 that were accidentally dropped off at Boulder County ballot drop-off locations and one in Eagle County. These types of errors are common, but the state law requires they be forwarded and counted – even after Election Day.
“The Secretary of State’s office specifically instructed Broomfield to count these ballots during meetings with the Broomfield staff immediately following the election,” stated the report. “Despite these explicit instructions, (Candelarie) devised his own arbitrary scheme for counting ballots mistakenly delivered to other counties, treating voters differently with no justification and effectively disenfranchising 11 voters.”
Broomfield’s Candelarie, City and County Attorney William Tuthill III and Elections Department Director Mike Susek said this past week that they had disputed several of the findings by the Secretary of State’s office.
“It’s never an attempt to mislead the public or the (canvass) board” which certified the election count,” said Candelarie, who added that “minor issues” cited by the Secretary of State’s office should not impede the second recount on Monday.
“Our job is to go forward,” declared Candelarie. “We still have a responsibility to go forward with the recount.”
Susek said that if there are alleged violations or claims that the ballot count is inaccurate, there’s a 25-month window to file legal challenges.
Before the report was made public Wednesday, the Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition, which opposed Question 300, stated its intention to take legal action against Broomfield if it continues to fail to provide documentation to election watchers.