by Matie Belle Lakish
The Secretary of State’s office came to Saguache at the end of August to put to rest any uncertainty regarding the November 2010 election results for the Clerk and Recorder and Commissioner race. The effort, which took place over a three-day period, involved many local citizens in the count, and essentially confirmed the results of the previous counts, (with the exception of the one on November 2).  Melinda Myers, Clerk and Recorder, was confirmed as the winner of her position, and Linda Joseph was confirmed as Commissioner. A CU Regent count was done as a control, although it was not a close race, and the contention over the increase for the Northern Saguache Ambulance District was not addressed, as the Secretary’s office chose not to recount that issue.
According to Secretary of State, Scott Gessler, “The review provided unprecedented access to the ballots … After a turbulent election last year, the people of Saguache County deserved an open and transparent review.” He went on to thank all the volunteers who worked over the three days to provide the review count.
A few ballots were deemed too controversial to count, and those were removed from the count. According to Clerk Myers, most of those removed had a different type of mark, such as an X instead of a filled circle, which the local election judges had deemed countable, but which did not meet certain standards of the SOS. Even with this change in numbers, the election results remained the same. The following are the Secretary of
State’s review totals, with the old, County-certified totals in parenthesis.
Commissioner’s Race
Linda Joseph (D)  1193 (1204)
Steven Carlson (R)  1169 (1178)
Clerk and Recorder’s Race
Melinda Myers (D)  1217 (1227)
Carla Gomez (R)  1155 (1166)
In spite of efforts by the Secretary of State’s office to bring closure to the election, many citizens are still not satisfied. Marilyn Marks, Aspen resident, who has been involved in the election since January, along with others, still maintains that some votes were not counted and that procedures were not properly followed.
Clerk Myers has continued to express concern with average citizens having access to ballots, and especially several ballot styles for which there were only a few votes. Myers contends that those ballots could be associated with the voting individuals, thus violating the anonymity of those votes. After the Secretary’s recount was finished, she removed those select ballots from the ballot boxes, after which Marilyn Marks made copies of all the other voted ballots and took them with her to recount. Although she said that she would release her count results to local residents, that had not been done at press time.
In the meantime, other Clerk’s offices in Colorado are questioning Judge Martin Gonzales’ interpretation of the election code that allowed Secretary of State Gessler to take possession of the ballots and hold a public recount, and especially the interpretation that voted ballots should be made public to average citizens. Mesa County and Jefferson County are challenging Judge Gonzales’ decision, and there are rumors that the legislature will be asked to enact clarifying legislation in the next session.
Some citizens of the county are concerned about the privacy of their ballots. I have talked to more than one local resident who is angry that their voted ballots are being copied and released to the public. Other citizens have expressed concern over the expenses that the County is being forced to bare as a result of all this controversy and CORA requests. As the disputed ballots were from the Crestone/Baca area, perhaps we should note that Myers’ office observed the discrepancy in numbers in the original count that resulted in 197 votes from the that precinct orignially not being counted. It was those votes that swung the election for Myers and Joseph, and those that were being contested.
Myers Recall Campaign
Even after the recent recount by the Secretary of State, there are voters who wish to remove Clerk Myers from office, and, as announced in last month’s Eagle, have a campaign to recall her. Petitions to recall the Clerk are being circulated through October 3. According to an Alamosa Valley Courier article of Sept. 27, over 800 signatures have been collected by the recall campaign, 200 more than needed to put it to a vote. If enough signatures are verified this will initiate a recall election. Saguache County Treasurer Connie Trujillo was designated by the county commissioners as the election official to oversee a recall. The El Paso County Clerk’s Office would conduct the recallelection. The Recall Comittee has asked for a polling place election, which would be later than the scheduled election in November.