News

Scott Gessler, two county clerks targeted with lawsuit over "election from hell"

Page 3 of 3

Marilyn Marks, founder and president of Citizen Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that focuses on accountability in elections, has been supporting Busse in this case, in part because she has been at the forefront of the fight to eliminate traceable ballots.

Marks filed requests using the Colorado Open Records Act and was able to obtain documents featuring exchanges between different officials in the Secretary of State's office. Here's an e-mail from Gary Zimmerman, an official in Gessler's office, to several others, about problems in Teller County:

Here's another statement from Judd Choate, director of elections, to Gessler: The Secretary of State's office acknowledges the problems in Teller County. A report about the primary from Gessler's office, dated August 13 and on view below, says: "Based upon an eighteen-month assessment of activity in Teller County, the Secretary concludes that Teller County is not prepared to properly administer elections."

Rich Coolidge, spokesman for Gessler, says the office received the lawsuit last week and is reviewing it.

In the meantime, Gessler's office has brought in an official from Arapahoe County to oversee elections in Teller to ensure the November vote goes smoothly.

"We are putting the right people in place to make sure Teller County voters have a fair [election]," he says, adding that the report speaks for itself in regard to concerns with the county clerk.

For her part, Teller County Clerk Judith Jamison admits that it was pretty bad.

"Anything that could go wrong did go wrong," she says, adding, "It was the election from hell."

She says fires around Election Day on the west side of the county made it very difficult for her office to run things smoothly, with some staff members forced to evacuate.

As per the mistake with the mail-in ballots, she says, "It was a clerical error.... I have nothing more to say on that."

She adds: "We learned a great deal about our equipment and some best practices and procedures for doing this, and this office is moving forward with grace."

Meanwhile, Lance Ingalls, Douglas County attorney, tells us in an e-mail that the county did not violate any provision of the Colorado Constitution with regard to the secrecy of ballots, saying in part:

Consistent with legal precedent, Douglas County has at all times carefully protected secrecy of ballots throughout the primary election process on all ballots and does not agree with Ms. Busse's contrary conclusions. Bar codes are used to preserve the integrity of the election and process and are separated from voter identifying information (e.g. mailing envelopes) in a highly regulated process and still within secrecy envelopes, before any ballots are counted or election choices revealed.

And in regards to questions about inconsistencies across the two counties, he writes:

While Douglas County is in no position at this point to comment on alleged differences in procedure between Douglas County and Teller County, Douglas County believes all of its procedures were legally adequate and appropriate.

For Marks, a frequent critic of Gessler and the county clerks, time is running out for Colorado to clean up its election processes.

"It is a huge mess, and it shows how unready we really are for the election in November," she says.

Continue reading for some of the key documents involved in this case.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin