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Colorado Supreme Court to weigh in on Adams 12 school board election dispute

The Colorado Supreme Court is poised to play a role in determining who sits on the Adams 12 school board.

The state's high court has decided to hear a case that seeks an answer to a complicated question: Can candidate Amy Speers, whose story we told last week, officially win the election even though she was ineligible to run in the first place? Or, as Secretary of State Scott Gessler argues, should opponent Rico Figueroa be declared the winner even though he garnered fewer votes than Speers?

Speers and Figueroa were running to represent District 4 of the Adams 12 Five Star school district. District 4 is an L-shaped area of more than 40,000 residents that encompasses chunks of Northglenn and Thornton.

Vote totals show that Speers earned the most votes. In Adams County, she received 64 percent. In Broomfield County, she won 62 percent. Figueroa garnered 36 percent of the vote in Adams County and 38 percent in Broomfield County.

But Speers won't be able to take office, since she lives outside District 4 -- a fact that Adams 12 officials failed to discover until a week before the election. Speers didn't realize it, either. A redrawing of the boundaries for school board members in 2012 placed Speers's address in District 2, not District 4.

But Speers refused to drop out of the race. Instead, she says she encouraged people to vote for her anyway to send a message to the school board that the residents of Adams 12 supported non-conservative candidates such as herself.

It worked -- but Speers and her supporters didn't know that until two weeks after the election. At 5:19 p.m. on election day, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler issued an emergency rule declaring votes for ineligible candidates "invalid." His rule effectively stopped the clerks in Adams and Broomfield counties from counting Speers's votes.

Soon thereafter, a group of eight citizens filed a lawsuit against Gessler and the clerks, alleging that Gessler's emergency rule went against the law. The clerks should count Speers's votes, the group argued, and if it's determined that she won, the District 4 seat should be declared vacant and the school board should appoint someone to fill it.

On November 18, Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt sided with the citizens. Within the next few days, Adams and Broomfield counties released the vote totals.

But Gessler wasn't happy with the judge's ruling. After issuing a statement declaring that it "hurts the voters of the Adams 12 school district and undermines the democratic process," he appealed the decision to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Yesterday, the high court decided to take the case. According to the court's order (which is on view below), the two sides must file their arguments by December 16.

So where does that leave Speers and Figueroa? According to school district spokesman Joe Ferdani, "we are consulting with legal counsel in determining what next steps we may take." Meanwhile, candidate-elect Kathy Plomer, who won the District 3 race, will be sworn in at a special meeting of the school board on December 2.

Read the Colorado Supreme Court's order below.

Order of Court

More from our Education archive: "Amy Speers, ineligible Adams 12 school board candidate, wins election: What now?"

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