Tom Tancredo appears in court, defends right to blow off GOP for American Constitution Party

It didn't take long to get to the main event at the Denver District Court today.

Tom Tancredo was the first witness called to the stand to defend his right to run for governor on the American Constitution Party ticket.

A lawsuit filed by Richard Westfall on behalf of two Republican voters claims Tancredo's late entrance into the race violates a Colorado statute requiring a candidate be registered with his or her party by January 1.

In court, Westfall spent his time establishing Tancredo as a lifelong Republican who surreptitiously changed parties in order to disrupt the election process -- something that wasn't hard to do. Tancredo said he'd been a Republican for 45 years and has been publicly vocal about his recent switch. Westfall's first exhibit was this November 2009 Westword article in which Tancredo announced he would run for governor as a Republican.

Tancredo didn't register as a member of the American Constitution Party until late July. But the defense argued party bylaws filed with the Colorado Secretary of State trump state laws in this matter, and that parties have the right to waive their bylaws. Amanda Campbell of the American Constitution Party testified that the executive committee voted to waive their membership requirements on July 20.

"It was a complete victory for Mr. Tancredo," said Tancredo's lawyer, John Duffy. "None of what they said about him being a former Republican matters. The American Constitution Party waived their bylaws, and if you look at the statute, it's up to the party to decide."

Westfall argued that Tancredo's actions were an affront to Colorado law. "He's taking advantage of a giant loophole that's contrary to every principle of ballot access," he said.

The case will hinge on Judge William Hood's interpretation of the statute. Hood will also be taking into account the practicality of eliminating a candidate from the ballot at this late point.

Later, Wayne Munster, Deputy Director of Elections at the Secretary of State's office, testified extensively as to the difficulties his office would encounter in recertifying and reprinting ballots, reprogramming computer databases by county, reissuing overseas ballots, and the costs associated with this. He said he believes a ballot recall would threaten the integrity of his office's product and put the state at risk of violating federal election guidelines.

Judge Hood expects to rule on the case tomorrow.