Grand Lake followed letter of the law in investigating voters
September 18, 2008
To the Editor:
I would like to take an opportunity to respond to Mr. Brower’s letter to the editor on Aug. 19.
Mr. Brower, I would like to recap the facts of the case regarding the mayoral election for the Town of Grand Lake.
On 1 April, Mr. Harrington was declared the winner in the Grand Lake mayoral election by a margin of two votes.
On 14 April, the Grand County Clerk and Recorder delivered three names to the District Attorney’s Office, as REQUIRED by statute when she found “reasonable cause to believe the applicants have falsified their legal address.”
In a press release dated 22 April, Grand Lake Town Clerk Ronda Kolinske stated: “Due to the controversy regarding the qualification of certain individuals to vote in the municipal election, the Town of Grand Lake Election Official filed a petition with the District Court per Section 31-10-1401, C.R.S. If the court finds that two or more of the respondents were illegal, which would be a sufficient number to change the outcome of the election for mayor, the court may annul the mayoral election and declare the position vacant.”
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On 7 May, the Grand Lake Mayoral election results were nullified after two voters were found to be ineligible to vote in the town election. The District Judge found that “no person was duly elected to fill the position of mayor in Grand Lake.”
For the purpose of my letter, I will avoid the suspect actions of one of the candidates who was either negligent in his understanding and interpretation of the sworn affidavit he signed, under penalty of perjury, or perhaps more insidiously, intentionally signed his affidavit knowing it was incorrect.
In the spirit of disclosure, I should mention that my father, Tom Weydert, is a trustee for the Town of Grand Lake. He has been for almost 20 years. I was raised in Grand Lake, and although I cannot vote in this election, I feel compelled to respond to what I believe is a terrible mischaracterization of the efforts of the town of Grand Lake to ensure a fair and legal election of the new mayor.
Mr. Brower, you spoke of the “ominous” problem with Grand Lake Town’s investigation into voter lists and voter registration. You stated “I think the town’s investigation of voters and voter registration lists represents voter intimidation and even discrimination.” Next, you stated “This is no laughing matter as our federal right to vote embraces the idea that any effort to intimidate or discourage a class or group of voters from participating in the electoral process represents discrimination and an abrogation of voter rights.”
I would like to offer you a brief summary of what I was able to learn about our “Federal Voting Rights.” I believe that you were referring to the Federal Voting Act of 1965. To summarize, that act applies to the ‘denial or abridgment of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color, or if a violation is established that, based on the totality of circumstances, it is shown that the political processes leading to nomination or election are not equally open to participation by members of a class of citizens protected by these laws, in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice’.
To my knowledge, the Town of Grand Lake did not deny or abridge the ‘right’ to vote to anyone duly QUALIFIED to participate in such an election. There was no denial to a certain type or class of citizens, it was denied (after the fact) to the people who were NOT RESIDENTS OF THE TOWN.
Allow me to continue with a brief summary of the Colorado State Constitution regarding the right to vote. Please refer to Article II, chapter 5 of the Colorado Constitution which states; “All elections shall be free and open; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”
Again, I have not seen any evidence that the Town of Grand Lake failed to meet its obligations under State Law to ensure that a lawful election was conducted, and that QUALIFIED voters were not afforded their opportunity to vote in accordance with State Laws.
How about an examination of the Grand County Statutes, which, I would contend, is most applicable to the current situation. Please refer to section: 31-10-201 (3) (a-e) which addresses the qualifications and registration of electors, and more specifically addresses the rules governing the determination of a RESIDENCE of a person offering to vote.
I understand it is popular in today’s political landscape to invoke the idea of the disenfranchised voter, but I think in this particular case it is totally, and utterly unjustified. At no time was a duly qualified person denied the right to vote. At no time did an agent of the town, whose sworn obligation is to ensure the sanctity of the election process, attempt to influence or intimidate any voter eligible to participate.
Your equivalence of the ‘open ended investigation’ to ‘voter intimidation’ does not make the case in my opinion.
While I respect Mr. Brower’s opinions, I feel compelled to say it again; I wholeheartedly disagree with his characterization of the process currently being used in Grand Lake to determine who is eligible to vote in the mayoral election. The efforts of the town have never been about the result or any attempt to influence the result. They have, however, been made to ensure the sanctity of the process. I believe the circumstances surrounding the initial election demanded action. Action was taken, and motions were filed in accordance with state and local laws. The cases were then presented and ruled upon by the 14th District Court. The court found that there was no one duly elected to the position of mayor. I am not sure what other steps would have been appropriate, or could have resolved this case.
Grand County is a small community, and increased voter turnout is something we all need to encourage among those eligible to vote. In this case, it was an extremely close election. The margin of victory was only two votes for Mr. Harrington. Issues were raised regarding the legal status of several voters in regards to their qualification as RESIDENTS to vote in the election. I must admit that I am not privy to the current residency status of the citizens of Grand Lake, but I am absolutely certain that the process is just, equitable, and above all legal. I think the town did the right thing by submitting the process to a legal review.
I think we should applaud the efforts of those involved.
Lt. Ryan Weydert
MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii