Medical marijuana ban in El Paso County loses -- not that officials were eager to offer updates

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The morning after election day, a medical marijuana business ban vote in El Paso County was close enough to require a provisional ballot count Vote No on 1A spokesman Mike Elliott predicted would take quite a while, and he was right. Last night, officials finally confirmed the measure lost -- and e-mails show previous info was tough to come by.

The final count on the measure was 93,747 no votes to 92,855 ayes -- and the margin of victory actually increased by several hundred once the provisional ballots were tallied. But according to e-mails provided by Mary McNeely, director of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, Elliott had a tougher time getting updates than did a number of other folks -- among them Owen Hill, a Republican state senate candidate whose race against Democratic hopeful John Morse was also finalized last night in Morse's favor.

A source provided Elliott with the following e-mail, written by Robert Balink, El Paso County's clerk and recorder. It's dated Tuesday, November 9, and Hill, but not Morse, is copied:

From: Robert Balink Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2010 4:18 PM To: William Louis; Jim Bensberg; Wayne Williams; 'mail@holdenhouse.com'; Amy Lathen; Dennis Hisey; Dave Rose Cc: 'mfrancisco@rothgerber.com'; 'owenjhill@gmail.com' Subject: Provisional ballots

19 unsigned

5,132 cast

2,602 reviewed at of Nov 9th 4pm 2,320 valid (will be counted) 89.16% 282 (ineligible)

The work continues.


Another update written by Balink went out on Wednesday, November 10. This time, the recipients were blind-copied; Elliott got this one from a separate source, too. The note reads:

From: Robert Balink Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 5:38 PM Subject: Election Update

Tentative final numbers...

Provisional ballots cast: 5,142

Accepted: 4,325 Rejected: 445

Will be added to unofficial results early next week. (By Tuesday deadline)

For his part, Elliott e-mailed Balink on Saturday, November 13, in the hope of finding out where 1A recount matters stood.

From: Michael Elliott [mailto:michael.elliott80@gmail.com] Sent: Saturday, November 13, 2010 10:06 AM To: Robert Balink Subject: Re: County Question 1A

Mr. Balink,

Thanks for your quick response.

One final thing: When I said in the original email that I would like "updates about the provisional ballot counting process," I did not mean that I wanted to see the results. Ms. Olson, who has been friendly and helpful, has let me know that results will not be available until next Tuesday.

If you are sending out "updates" about the progress your office has made validating the provisional ballots, I would like to be included on that list. Are you sending out these kind of updates?

Thanks again for your time.

Michael Elliott, Esq.

In response, Balink e-mailed Elliott the following:

From: Robert Balink Date: Sat, Nov 13, 2010 at 10:18 AM Subject: Re: County Question 1A To: "michael.elliott80@gmail.com" Cc: William Louis , Dave Rose , Liz Olson

Well I think you DO want to see the results, we all do! But, alas, none are known.


But we have not been distributing any "updates" that I am aware of.

If it helps you to know, I believe the provisional ballot duplication process had completed nearly 40 percent of the precincts, if I overheard a conversation accurately late yesterday. Progress.


If Elliott wasn't exactly kept in the loop to the degree others were, however, medical marijuana advocates in El Paso County are certainly pleased with the official numbers.

"This is a victory for medical cannabis patients, and it preserves the spirit of Amendment 20," says the CSMCC's McNeely, adding, "El Paso County has traditionally been conservative, and I think the fact that we were able to win, even though it was close, shows that people were willing to educate themselves -- and they realized that a 'no' vote was a vote for individual and patient rights. I know a lot of Republicans feel that way, including many Republicans who own centers. So this crosses party lines."

In the end, Balink's e-mails did as well.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana dispensary bans pass in Aurora, Dougco: Fuel for legalization fight?"

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