Press Release--Citizen Center Seeks Temporary Restraining Order Prohibiting Traceable Barcodes on Colorado Ballots  

Defendants Gessler, Hall, Reno and Simonton must respond by August 24

August 20, Aspen, CO—On August 17 Citizen Center filed a motion for a Temporary Restraining Order in the Citizen Center v Gessler, et al. litigation asking the court to prohibit Secretary of State Gessler’s and the Boulder,  Chaffee and Eagle County Clerks’ actions to print traceable, voter-identifying barcodes and numbers on voters’ November ballots.

Robert McGuire, of McGuire Baines, LLC, attorney for Citizen Center remarked, “With a mere seven weeks to go before ballots have to be printed for this year’s presidential election, this may be Colorado’s last chance to avert a head-on constitutional collision that could have national consequences.”

“The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled in no uncertain terms that an election in which all ballots are traceable back to their voters is a void election. No wiggle room, no exceptions. That means every race on the ballot this November, from dog catcher all the way up to president, will be in jeopardy of being thrown out if this illegal practice of printing unique, traceable numbers and barcodes on Colorado ballots isn’t stopped.”

Marilyn Marks, founder of Citizen Center, commented, “When this lawsuit began in February, it was based on unaddressed complaints filed with Secretary Gessler’s office last fall. Ballots with barcodes traceable to the voters are standard in at least 44 counties in Colorado. Boulder, Chaffee and Eagle Clerks claimed that any traceability issues were resolved earlier this year, yet an analysis of June’s voted ballots  belies those disingenuous assertions.”

As recently as mid-June, Secretary Gessler’s office issued a letter to Colorado election officials supporting the use of unique barcodes on the ballots as “statewide policy” and offered to engage in litigation support to “defend” this policy. This letter was consistent with Secretary Gessler’s statement that he believes that there is no federal constitutional right to a secret ballot. Gessler’s office acknowledged last fall that they had been aware of the traceable ballot issue for some time and wanted to address it by requiring that government insiders keep this information for themselves but conceal it from the public. Indeed, Gessler supported House Bill 12-1036, now troublesome law, that permits election officials to remove traceable barcodes from ballot copies before sharing voted ballots with the press and public, although no such traceable ballots should ever exist. Citizen Center insists that all ballots should be untraceable and anonymous when cast.

Citizen Center obtained copies of Chaffee County’s June ballots, and the code that correlates the barcode on the ballot with the voter’s name was easily determined, according to Marks. “The code for Republican ballots is consistent, allowing anyone with access to public election records to do the simple arithmetic to pull up a scanned copy of any individual Republican voter’s ballot. The code used for tracking Democratic ballots is more obscure. The horrendous, long-used but concealed coding of ballots with data matrix and barcode technology has been exposed for what it is, and voters are rebelling, as they should be. No one, particularly the government, should have access to information on how an individual voted.”

Citizen Center also reported the ability to use the Eagle County Clerk’s June ballots and ballot printer’s files to trace the individual barcoded ballots back to Eagle County’s voters through a simple table correlating the ballot stub number to the barcode. This evidence is consistent with Eagle Clerk Simonton’s long-standing policy to prevent authorized election watchers from closely observing ballot counting and auditing. In September 2010 Simonton prohibited Marilyn Marks from verifying tabulations in the 2010 primary election. Simonton used the rationale that the ballots were traceable to the individual voter and only political insiders should have access.

Boulder County has refused the litigation requirements to produce copies of Boulder’s 2012 voted ballots with the barcode numbers intact. Hall withheld the ballots filing objections that analysts may be able to connect the voter and the ballot.

McGuire added, “Our Constitution guarantees us the right to freely vote our conscience. But how can that right be meaningfully be exercised when we know that the government—and potentially anyone else with access to government records—can basically put themselves right there in the voting booth with us just by snooping in the right electronic files? That’s not the kind of ‘democracy’ I thought I grew up in—it’s something new and sinister, and it needs to be stopped. ”

The court ordered the defendants to respond by Friday, August 24.

Citizen Center is a non-partisan non-profit organization focused on government transparency with a particular specialty in election integrity. More information may be found on the website

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