BROOMFIELD – The saga of Broomfield’s bumbled election continued Tuesday when the ballot recount turned up 19 votes that were not previously counted on Question 300, a controversial proposal to impose a five-year ban on hydraulic fracturing. The revelation compounded concerns about the credibility of the error-riddled election.
“This Broomfield election process, and so-called ‘recount’ and the massive irregularities being swept under the rug are the most egregious abuse of the Colorado election code and voter trust,” said Marilyn Marks, president of Citizen Center, a non-profit and non-partisan organization devoted to election integrity.
Unknown is how 19 votes mysteriously appeared in the city and county of Broomfield’s recount that was strictly limited to ballots previously counted in the Nov. 5 election. In addition, the recount did not include at least 11 ballots which Broomfield rejected in violation of state election laws, or ballots cast by potentially 100 voters who were erroneously deemed ineligible.
The recount tally shows the controversial fracking ban passing by 20 votes, or 10,361 – 10,341.
Broomfield reported Nov. 5 that Question 300 was being defeated by 13 votes, and nearly two weeks later, winning by 17 votes after provisional and overseas ballots were counted.
“City Clerk (Jim) Candelarie and City Attorney Bill Tuthill have forced and demanded ‘improper’ shortcuts resulting in unverifiable records and tallies,” Marks told The Colorado Observer.
“This election is classic Humpty-Dumpty – in so many broken pieces it can never be put back together again,” declared Marks.
“Yet, (Broomfield) is insisting that although broken – and the results are unverifiable for ballot question 300 – it’s official because the city was able to secure the unsuspecting independent canvass board members’ signatures on the inaccurate and incomplete state certification,” said Marks.
Broomfield has yet to produce the abstract which is required before certification of an election and before a recount can be conducted, said Marks, who with other authorized election watchers were wrongfully forced to submit written requests for documents.
Candelarie, Tuthill and Broomfield Elections Manager Michael Susek refused to answer questions about the county abstract during canvass board meetings last week.
“They kept saying let’s get on with the recount and we’ll get that info to you,” said former state Sen. Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield. “That’s what they always say, but the info never comes.”
“There’s a serious risk of a legal challenge,” said Mitchell, an attorney. “A lot of people are disgusted by the sloppy handling of these important issues.”
A lawsuit was filed Tuesday by Broomfield Balance Energy Coalition (BBEC) in Broomfield District Court. BBEC, which opposed the fracking ban, is seeking injunctive relief on the certification of the election recount and access to the documents that have been denied to watchers.
“They have a legal responsibility and duty to us and citizens of Broomfield to fulfill our requests for access and when they neglect that duty and responsibility, that forces us into an adversarial position,” said former state Rep. BJ Nikkel of BBEC.
Broomfield’s lack of transparency and election irregularities have been so egregious that the Colorado Secretary of State’s office issued a scathing report last week, citing numerous violations in processing ballots.
Last week, Mark Grueskin, attorney for Our Broomfield that pushed the fracking ban, insisted the recount should go forward – with or without the abstract and documentation of the election – to meet the Dec. 5 deadline. Broomfield officials echoed his opinion.
Defending the decision to proceed with the ballot recount despite numerous election irregularities, Broomfield City and County Manager Charles Ozaki sent an email to city council members, blaming the Secretary of State’s office for the election errors and disputing the report.
Ozaki’s email elicited a sharp reality check from Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert to whom the blame-game email had been forwarded.
“After observing these poor (election) processes first hand, I was not too surprised to see your inaccurate email,” Staiert said in an email sent Monday to Ozaki and Broomfield City Council members.
“Rather than accept any responsibility for numerous election errors, Broomfield continues to search elsewhere for blame,” Staiert added.
Tuesday, the Broomfield City Council again huddled behind closed to doors to receive legal advice from Tuthill on how to handle the election debacle. Under Colorado’s Sunshine Law, an executive session to obtain legal counsel is protected from public record.