Many of the issues that dominated local headlines in 2015, including homelessness, the rising cost of housing and a steady influx of transplants, continued to be hot topics this year. But from an unpredictable, insane election to the media frenzy over the twentieth anniversary of JonBenét Ramsey’s death, 2016 threw out plenty of curveballs. Keep reading for strange but true stories from the past year that once again prove that truth is definitely stranger than fiction.
A state law passed in 1891 that prohibits voters from showing each other their completed ballots became the focal point of a lawsuit 125 years later. After voters posted selfies with their ballots on social media, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey reminded the selfie sluts that posting such photos is illegal under the nineteenth-century law. The Colorado Libertarian Party sued Morrissey, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Secretary of State Wayne W. Williams over the law, which it considers a First Amendment violation — and won. In other selfie-related election news, CU Boulder’s chemistry department let students skip their midterm exams to caucus, but only if they provided the department with selfies to prove their attendance.
More than half of the signatures that Denver City Council candidate Corrie Houck submitted to the Denver Elections Division for her write-in candidacy in the 2015 District 2 council race didn’t match signatures on file for those voters. As it turns out, the names of dead voters and even some Sesame Street characters were included on her petition. In May, Houck pleaded guilty to forging signatures. While Houck “admitted to the Denver Elections Division some signers had tricked her by using the names of Sesame Street characters instead of their actual names,” CBS4 reported, “she made no mention of the other identities prosecutors [accused] her of forging or reviving from the dead in her attempt to get into city politics.”
Denver played a role in one of the biggest stories to come out of the presidential election. Years before, Hillary Clinton had tapped Denver-based Platte River Networks to host a private server in her New York home, which she used to manage private e-mails that just happened to discuss some Secretary of State business. Spurred by a Republican-led inquiry into how the U.S. government handled the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, the State Department requested that Clinton turn over the e-mails. She complied, sort of — because in 2015, a Platte River Networks employee had deleted some of the e-mails. The Justice Department granted the employee immunity in September 2016 while it pursued its investigation, the New York Times reported.
Mark Holmes, a landlord in Grand Junction, advertised an opening with this: “DOWNTOWN APARTMENT, 2 bedrooms, furnished or use your things, organic garden space, hot tub, great back yard, dogs allowed if they have references as good as yours. If voting for Donald Trump, do not call! (970) 778-8902, leave message on phone.” After a would-be renter accused Holmes of discrimination, the Denver Post pointed out that “excluding renters based on their political affiliation isn’t prohibited by federal law like barring them based on sex or race.”
Colorado delegates were the rebels at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The delegation was supposed to support Trump, but instead cast 31 of its 37 votes for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, drawing boos and jeers from the crowd. It was hardly the first act of defiance from this bunch: The delegation had made headlines the day before after it staged a walkout to protest convention rules that effectively ensured Trump’s nomination.
A typo on a ballot caused quite an uproar in Erie, after the town sent an e-mail to voters asking that they still decide on a ballot question that pertained to the sale of town-owned property, even though the street name of the address in question was misspelled (it should have been Skylane Drive, not Skyline Drive). The property owner had given the town misinformation.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.