Court Ruling on Fracking Stuns Activists

February 28, 2014
Opponents of Broomfield’s fracking ban said they were stunned by the court’s decision.

Opponents of Broomfield’s fracking ban said they were stunned by the court’s decision.

BROOMFIELD – A judge’s decision to uphold election results to ban fracking stunned activists who served as watchers during the chaotic election, observed irregularities, and were later stonewalled by city officials who blocked access to public records

District Judge Chris Melonakis ruled that the election “was remarkably transparent,” however a spokeswoman for a plaintiff in the case said they disagreed with the court’s findings.

“We have a very different point of view of what transparency is and we don’t believe that this election was transparent,” said B.J. Nikkel, spokeswoman for Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition (BBEC), a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“As a result of this election, Broomfield citizens have been left with a flawed election where election officials acknowledge mistakes they made in counting ballots, and where actual results were hidden behind a wall of secrecy,” Nikkel said.

Harvie Branscomb, who was an election watcher in Broomfield, agreed with Nikkel and said, “the judge appears to have gravely misunderstood what expert watchers experienced.”

“The county purposefully shirked authorized watcher verification of essential public election records,” said Branscomb, who is also the former co-chairman of the Eagle County Democratic Party.

“The minimal information that I and other watchers struggled to get was utterly insufficient to allow us to confirm an election outcome,” Branscomb said. “Each new fragment only raised additional questions that went unanswered.”

“I am deeply disappointed by the failure of our election system to provide a simple verifiable path to an accurate outcome. The court cannot add accuracy to an inaccurate election,” Branscomb said.

Broomfield Clerk and Recorder Jim Candelarie and Elections Manager Michael Susek testified during the two-day hearing this week that the election errors were caused by the Secretary of State’s failure to interpret new residency requirements after an election law, House Bill 1303, was passed last year.

“The credible testimony of Mr. Candelarie disclosed that, as a consequence of the Secretary of State’s failure to timely fulfill the requirements … county clerks throughout the state were conferring regarding the handling of coordinated elections with differing residency requirements,” Melonakis ruled.

Marilyn Marks of the nonprofit group Citizen Center said that from a voter rights and election integrity perspective, the court’s judgment was extraordinarily disappointing.

“The findings by the court are riddled with factual errors that certainly affected the ruling in Broomfield’s favor,” Marks said. “The court placed great weight on the inaccurate notion that clerk Candelarie was operating without guidance or rules by the Secretary of State on how to determine residency requirements.”

From the time that House Bill 1303 was enacted on May 10, the residency requirements were clear, and no interpretation was needed from the Secretary of State, Marks said.

“Many other counties complied without issue,” Marks said.

“Citizen Center began reminding Clerk Candelarie in September that local residency rules had to be followed,” recalled Marks. “A week before Candelabra mailed the ballots the Secretary of State reminded the clerks that the local residency laws must be complied with.”

“To absolve Candelarie of this intentional noncompliance is unjust to voters whose votes were wrongly rejected and wrongly counted,” Marks said.

Broomfield filed a lawsuit to deny public records to Marks, who had submitted a request for election materials under the Colorado Open Records Act. After defending herself in court, District Court Judge Francis Wasserman ordered Broomfield election officials to turn over the records to Marks on Jan. 21.

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