BROOMFIELD – Broomfield City and County Manager Charles Ozaki and Attorney Bill Tuthill will brief city council members Tuesday about controversial issues surrounding the flawed Nov. 5 election that turned up 80 unreported ballots and materials. The legal briefing will be behind closed doors.
It’s the latest in a series of executive sessions to dish legal advice about Broomfield’s election errors and the narrowly passed fracking ban initiative.
The mysterious box was inventoried last Friday, but not fully examined in public.
“(Broomfield’s) ‘transparency theater’ was of great concern to expert observers. It raised far more serious concerns than it answered,” declared Marilyn Marks of Citizen Center, a nonprofit advocacy group for fair and transparent elections.
Among the 80 ballots were 37 that were deemed “spoiled” – either damaged or marked in error. City officials claim that an unknown number of voters were issued replacement ballots. But, Marks said this report conflicts with the claim of only two spoiled ballots last month.
“This demonstrates that the election judges had not reconciled the ballot inventory before delivering the abstract to the canvass board for certification,” contended Marks.
The box also contained at least 21 ballots that Broomfield Elections had delivered to the Broomfield Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation center in October. Broomfield elections sent an individual back to the nursing home on Nov. 5 to obtain residency affirmations. The election worker filled out 22 of the affidavits and signed a couple of them with a handwritten note that the individuals were too ill to sign.
Of the nursing home ballot bungling, Broomfield officials concluded that nine envelopes and ballots were returned because the individuals did not wish to vote, seven envelopes with ballots were returned because those “voters were unavailable to vote at the time the ballots were delivered,” and Leoda Spensieri’s ballot was rejected because she died before Nov. 5.
Broomfield County and City Attorney Bill Tuthill told a district court judge that the contents of the hidden box would be examined in public – and by eligible election watchers – last Friday. But the contents were inventoried by the city without oversight by the election watchers.
“Review of Election Materials Reveals No Voted, Countable Ballots” headlined the city’s spin on the box contents and listed an inventory of reasons for casting aside 80 ballots.
The claim of “no voted, countable ballots,” is misleading said Marks.
“In reality, watchers were not permitted to have visual access to the documents, and no attempt was made to determine whether voted ballots from eligible voters were enclosed” in sealed or unsealed envelopes, said Marks.
Critics assert that ballots and envelopes tossed in a box stashed in Broomfield Elections Manager Michael Susek’s office lend credibility to lawsuits challenging the election results as well as a scathing report by the Secretary of State.
“The greater issue is the breakdown of the chain of custody and inability to account for all ballots received, whether they were spoiled, re-issued, counted, rejected, etc.,” said Marks in a statement.
“Without a strict chain of custody, the integrity of the election cannot be determined, particularly with close margin elections,” declared Marks.
Two of three Broomfield election canvass board members – Clerk and Recorder Candelarie and Joan Stern-Murahata certified the election after a recount of Question 300 to ban fracking that narrowly passed by 20 voters. Critics contend that Stern-Murahata was ineligible to serve as a canvass board members because she worked on the anti-fracking campaign.
Canvass Board member Marty Robinson, who had remained neutral on Question 300, refused to sign the recount certification.
Broomfield District Court Judge Francis Wasserman issued a temporary injunction ordering Broomfield to “withhold certification of the election recount results regarding Question 300” in response to legal challenges filed by Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition (BBEC) that opposed the ban fracking ban.
“Even prior to this latest revelation, there were clear voter integrity issues with the Broomfield election,” said B. J. Nikkel, advisor to BBEC. “Having an election official now discover a ‘junk drawer’ full of ballots two months after the election is shocking.”
“Given the abject lack of integrity in the elections process we can’t see any other fair outcome for the voters of Broomfield except for this election to be invalidated,” said Nikkel.
Nikkel implored the Broomfield City Council “to take heed and invalidate this election because you cannot fix something this broken. This is not the way Colorado elections are conducted.”