Voters’ Rights to Secret Ballot Violated by Officials
April 9, 2013 (Aspen, Colorado)—Citizen Center filed an election contest yesterday as a co-plaintiff seeking to set aside the March 19 Center, Colorado, special recall election. The suit focuses on breakdowns in critical election procedures and a surprising violation of voters’ constitutional rights to cast a secret ballot.
Maurice (Moe) Jones, a recalled town trustee, is the lead plaintiff in the case, which was filed in Saguache state district court against the Town of Center, its clerk, and the three new Town trustees.
“It is impossible to determine who actually won this election, given the massive breakdown in basic procedures. Of approximately 480 ballots cast, 301 absentee ballots were hand delivered with no record of who delivered them, a procedure that invites abuse. The votes on 364 of the ballots were counted in violation of the voters’ right to a secret ballot. This abuse of voter privacy is intolerable anywhere in Colorado, but it’s especially troubling in Center, with its continuing reports of voter intimidation and undue influence,” Marilyn Marks, President of Citizen Center, stated.
Moe Jones was hesitant to bring this case but thought he owed it to the Town: “I reluctantly sued my hometown in this community-supported action to rid the town of election mal-conduct that has plagued the Town of Center for years. We demand that every citizen must have an equal and private voice in an election. Unfortunately, some local activists who crave power have schemed to undermine the most basic value in our democracy—the equal power of each citizen at the polls to vote their own conscience. I call on every citizen of Center to use this opportunity to demand their rights to fair elections. We will not allow any special interest group to control our Center elections. Only the true will of the voters will control the results of our elections.”
Jeff Baines, of McGuire Baines LLC in Denver, counsel for Jones and Citizen Center, pointed out that “Colorado’s election laws are not mere suggestions for clerks” and that “enforcing strict compliance with these laws means that citizens can trust government without doing so blindly.”
Jones and Citizen Center allege that intermingling of legally and illegally cast ballots means that it is now impossible to determine the true outcome of the election. Thus the election must be redone.
Marks stated, “It is particularly disappointing that Town Clerk Samora and Municipal Judge Sanchez certified the election despite repeated complaints of election law violations. People present at the March 29th recount noted flawed ballot custody, questionable signatures, voter eligibility challenges, and multiple ballots voted with the same pen and similar marks. The clerk and judge were fully authorized to demand and inspect all evidence concerning any ballot, yet did nothing to investigate. This election felt more like a coup than an American town election.”
Citizen Center believes that it was incumbent on Clerk Samora and Judge Sanchez to recognize that the election was too flawed to certify. Marks believes they had a duty to go to court themselves and request that the election be set aside. They could have called for a new election that would be properly conducted. Such responsible action would have been the fair and just thing to do and would have avoided this lawsuit.