by Crestone Eagle staff writers
Secretary Gessler came to Saguache on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 to address concerns over the election in 2010. He had issued a press release on Tuesday stating he intended to hand count the commissioner and county clerk races, along with a control group. Tuesday evening, county clerk Myers replied by denying him access to the ballots he wanted to unseal and count.The litigation filed on March 16 by the Secretary of State in the 12th Judicial District Court, states what the Secretary wants from this lawsuit. “Enter an injunction requiring the Clerk to obey the Secretary’s order and permit the Secretary to inspect and review all aspects of the 2010 primary and general elections in Saguache County, including but not limited to access to all materials and equipment related to said elections, the right to transport such materials and equipment to another location, and require the clerk to be available and assist as necessary during normal business hours to enable the Secretary to “inspect.., and review the practices and procedures of’ the Clerk, including answering questions in good faith concerning her practices and procedures relating to the conduct of the 2010 primary and general elections.”In response to questions about his office’s prior involvement in the November 2010 election, he tells Saguache citizens that “1 still stand by the Secretary of State’s report.” The outcome of this review is stated in his press release. “Because the 2010 election results have already been certified, the results will not be official but will be included in a final public report to be released by the Secretary of State in the near future.”Myers states in her reply to Gessler, “After careful consideration and review of election law, it is my opinion that there is no legal basis to unseal the ballots from the 2010 General election.” She states in the public meeting, “I need court guidance, Scott,I can’t just go and let people take the ballots that I’m responsible for.” In her letter to the Secretary of State, she explains why. “It is unclear what this exercise would accomplish, and could only serve to undermine the work already done in this election. In addition, this election is under investigation by the Attorney General’s office and that process deserves to unfold without this questionable action prejudicing the proceedings. Sealed voted ballots are sensitive documents and historically treated as confidential. Without clear guidance from the courts on the legality of this proposed hand count, I would be remiss in my duty by not protecting the voter’s ballots. I stand ready to comply with whatever decision the courts pass down.”The proposed hand count drew support from the Colorado County Clerks Association on Tuesday after the press release. Scott Doyle, head of the association,”More than any other organization in Colorado, we value election integrity as the highest priority, and our state has many years of election laws on the books to address this kind of situation. We urge the Secretary to follow those laws instead of rushing to unprecedented action that may ultimately harm the process.” The Association believes that the ballots should not be public record, as reported by Sara Burnett from The Denver Post.Whereas the Clerks Association feels it will be precedent setting, the Secretary thinks otherwise.Denver Post columnist, Vince Carrol in an opinion piece entitled “Counting Ballots in the Dark”, quotes Scott Gessler as reminding the public that his office has 90 years experience in running elections …. and,” by the way my staff does the training for clerk and recorders”.At this point, the Saguache County 2010 general election has drawn attention statewide. It is entirely possible that the outcome of these proceedings will ensure proper voting procedures not just for Saguache County but also the whole State of Colorado.