Crestone Eagle, November 2004:
State removes Saguache County clerk
from election process, absentee ballots mishandled
by David Nicholas
Saguache County Clerk and Recorder Audrey Conley
was removed from the election process on Wednesday, October
27. This occurred after the Saguache Board of County Commissioners
petitioned to the Colorado Secretary of State, Donetta Davidson
to have Ms. Conley removed after many of the 1137 voters who
requested absentee ballots in a timely fashion did not receive
Judge O. John Kuenhold approved Ms. Conley’s removal
after a short hearing where Saguache County Attorney Ben Gibbons
filed motions agreed to by the Secretary of State and Ms.
Mr. Gibbons stated in court, that this was a decision without
historic precedent, where a public official was removed from
the election process.
Judge Kuenhold was pleased that Mr. Gibbons had made the
process a smooth one, with all the details having been decided
upon before entering the courtroom. The judge had expected
to be sitting in Court late into the night.
Three officials from the Secretary of State’s office,
headed by Barbara Pascoe, former County Clerk of Park County,
were brought in to oversee the election on November 2. Ms.
Pascoe had been brought to observe the August 10th primary
in which the Saguache Democratic Party had cited ballot problems
In the Valley Courier Tuesday, October 26, Sylvia
Lobato reported: “McClure said part of the problem came
to light when people who had requested . . . absentee ballots
hadn’t received them and began wondering why.
“State law requires absentee ballots to be sent out
within 72 hours after requests for them have been received.
According to Mr. McClure, Saguache County Commissioner, most
of the ballots weren’t sent out, despite claims by Ms.
Conley that they were in the mail.
“People then complained to the Post Office, which had
not received the ballots. Mr. McClure said he received an
absentee ballot despite the fact that he hadn’t applied
for one, while his mother, who always voted absentee, did
not get the ballot she requested,
“Some Center residents who had asked for their ballots
in early October just received them, Mr. McClure said. He
said there was no cross-referencing of ballot requests, so
election clerks were hard-put to determine which ballots had
been issued and which had not.
“Mr. McClure said Saguache County has a large number
of persons that vote absentee and the tally may exceed 1,000.
“In addition to the absentee voters, 40-60 persons
have taken advantage of early voting to cast their ballots.
“Elections officials in the past have inventoried ballots
daily, cross-checking numbers and names and creating an effective
“paper trail” for accountability, but Mr. McClure
claimed this isn’t being done in Saguache County.
“While the ballots in most Colorado counties are kept
in safes or vaults, Mr. McClure said Saguache County’s
ballots are in a storage room next to the janitor’s
Was the error deliberate? Ms. Conley is a Republican, and
most of those absentee ballots involved Democrats.
“No,” said Mr. McClure, ”she just didn’t
know what to do. At the Commissioners meeting on October 21,
we had asked that Ms. Conley draw upon Ms. Pascoe’s
experience if she was having a problem. All she had to do
was ask. She didn’t do that, and she said, no, she would
So what happens now? While the date to request an absentee
ballot ended on October 26, they could be received anytime
up until the polls close at 7pm on November 2. If anyone still
hasn’t received their absentee ballot by November 2,
they may go to the polls and vote a “provisional”
But before the election is certified, which may take several
days to do, all those absentee ballots not verified during
the request process, will be verified against voter registration
rolls. So winners in local races may not be declared until
a much later date.
What will happen to Ms. Conley, as County Clerk and Recorder
after all this, remains to be seen, but one county employee
commented on her removal from the election process, “Thank
God, she didn’t fight it.”
(Valley Courier excerpt reprinted with permission)
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