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Republican candidates in Boulder and Pueblo pursue recounts, despite wide margins of loss

The Colorado Secretary of State's office may have certified election results last week, but that doesn't mean the battle is over. At least not from the perspective of Republican candidates in Boulder and Pueblo, who are considering pursuing recounts. While the races there weren't close, supporters argue a recount would promote transparency.

News of the possible recounts, which would likely be very expensive for the candidates, reaches us by way of Marilyn Marks, founder of Citizen Center, an organization that advocates for election integrity. Candidates in both counties have taken steps to pursue recounts by first requesting information about cost estimates, but it's unclear at this time whether they will move forward.

The push for a recount in Boulder comes just over a week after the county's canvass board, charged with certifying the results of the election, refused to give the green light, arguing that there were a range of flaws in the election process. Last week, Secretary of State Scott Gessler's office officially certified results across the state, although the status of the results in Boulder -- the only county with a canvass board that refused to certify -- remains uncertain.

The Secretary of State's office, which is allowed to "accept" the "uncertified results," is expected to release some kind of official response to the canvass board concerns this week.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler and activist Marilyn Marks in Boulder last week at a public hearing.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler and activist Marilyn Marks in Boulder last week at a public hearing.
Sam Levin

Members of the canvass board had hoped that their lack of certification would give them an opportunity to better vet the results and get access to information and data they argue has been kept from them. But since that seems unlikely, a full-fledged recount emerged as another way of pressuring election officials to address alleged flaws.

"What's happening here is that citizens and candidates are realizing in some counties -- Pueblo and Boulder being great examples -- that there was no meaningful transparency in the system," says Marks, who supported the canvass board's rejection in Boulder and is working on the potential recount. "That's because the clerks totally controlled the process."

Marks argues that there has been a lack of citizen oversight in Boulder. She feels a recount will give advocates and candidates a chance to highlight these problems, even if it's very likely the results won't change.

The request for a recount officially comes from Republican House District 11 candidate Ellyn Hilliard, who lost to the Democratic candidate Jonathan Singer.

Based on the latest election results from the Secretary of State's website, Singer received 22,222 votes while Hilliard received 16,899 -- meaning she lost by more than 5,000 votes.

Her official request, on view below, simply asks the Secretary of State for a cost estimate of a recount -- the first step in the process of pursuing a recount. (We've left Hilliard a message and will update if we hear back).

Continue for more on the potential recount in Pueblo County.

Marks notes that this recount would give the canvass board an opportunity to verify and scrutinize the results separate from the county clerk's process.

"In a recount, the clerk has to stand aside," Marks says. "This is a check and balance."

The canvass board in Boulder declined to certify the results due to what it sees as a flawed signature verification process with mail ballots and alleged inconsistencies in the final counts. The Clerk and Recorder in Boulder insists her office has her team has gone above and beyond in giving the canvass board access to information. She argues that the protests are unmerited and politically motivated.

Voters concerned with fraud at a hearing last week with Scott Gessler in Arapahoe County.
Voters concerned with fraud at a hearing last week with Scott Gessler in Arapahoe County.
Sam Levin

Meanwhile, in Pueblo County, the Republican Party has requested recounts on behalf of three candidates -- Jerry Denney, a GOP House District candidate, and county commissioner candidates Debbie Rose and Dan Centa. Latest counts show that Denney only received 39 percent of the vote, Centa received 46 percent of the votes and Rose received 49 percent of the votes.

"Throughout the whole campaign, we've had difficulty getting transparency and getting the information we needed," says Becky Mizel, chair of the Republican Party of Pueblo,whose concerns echo those in Boulder. "When the number's don't add up, people get very discouraged and wonder if the election integrity process is really there."

The clerk and recorder's office has told the Pueblo GOP that a recount would cost somewhere around $29,000, which Mizel says is too high. But GOP officials are still exploring their options for a possible recount, she says, and her original request is on view below.

"As far as we are concerned, the recount period has ended," says Gilbert Ortiz, clerk and recorder of Pueblo. "But I'm sure they can go to court [if they choose]."

He adds, "I don't know what they mean by lack of transparency. I have not denied them any requests that they've asked for.... We have been completely transparent."

He notes that the canvass board unanimously certified the election. He thinks the election was successful.

"The mail ballot process is very secure...and it's very secure in Pueblo," he says.

Andrew Cole, spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, says officials are reviewing the request from Boulder and working on giving the candidate an estimate of the recount cost. The clerk and recorder's office in Boulder has estimated the cost at more than $27,000, but the Secretary of State is working with county officials to see if that is reasonable. The status in Pueblo remains unclear, given uncertainty over what the GOP might pursue.

We've left a message with the Boulder Clerk and Recorder's office and will update if we hear back.

Continue for the official requests in Boulder and Pueblo.

The request from Ellyn Hilliard, Boulder candidate.

Ellyn Hilliard Recount Request

Request from the Pueblo GOP.

Pueblo Republican Party Recount Request

More from our Politics archive: "Scott Gessler gets extension for response to ethics investigation -- but only eleven days"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.


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