Grand Lake mayoral election could turn on court ruling about eligibility of six voters
April 23, 2008
“It’s all about the process, not the outcome,” said Grand Lake Election Official and Town Clerk Ronda Kolinske about the petition filed in District Court on April 18.
“It has nothing to do with the candidates; it has everything to do with the voters,” she said.
Six names of voters suspected of wrongly casting ballots in the April 1 Grand Lake election have been identified in the filed petition.
On April 14, Grand County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene hand delivered three of the names to the assistant district attorney. By statute, the clerk is required to bring names forward to the district attorney when she finds “reasonable cause to believe the applicants have falsified their legal address.”
One couple she identified as second homeowners with addresses in Jefferson County who had canceled their Grand County registration and did not have Grand County driver’s licenses, yet voted in the Grand Lake municipal election.
“I had a legitimate concern about what their primary place of residency is,” Rosene said.
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Another voter is suspected of using a Grand Lake address to vote, even though his primary address is in unincorporated Grand County. During open meetings recorded in Grand Lake town minutes, he has stated his address as being outside Grand Lake, Rosene said.
Three other names, making a total of six, were listed in the petition Kolinske filed for the District Court to consider. In her role as election official, Kolinske’s concerns surround this question: Was it a fair election?
The listed citizens must appear before the court to prove they were residents of Grand Lake for 30 days prior to the April 1 election.
If two or more of the voters were found to have been ineligible to vote, the town is requesting the court to enter an order and judgment annulling the mayoral election because, “They are of sufficient number to change the outcome of the election for mayor,” the petition reads.
Former mayor Judy Burke received 86 votes in the election; Mayor Glenn Harrington received 88.
“If people don’t feel like elections are fair, they’re not going to vote,” said Grand Lake Town Manager Shane Hale. “They feel disenfranchised.”
New Mayor Glenn Harrington seemed to be taking the news in stride Wednesday.
“This is just part of the process of any election with just two votes separating the two candidates,” he said. “All I did was run for mayor and am looking forward to serving as mayor for the next four years.”
The most common scenarios for ineligible voting occur when a voter who is a second homeowner and doesn’t claim Grand Lake as his or her primary residency votes, or when a voter who used to live in town but no longer does votes, Hale said.
Rosene said it is extremely rare for voter qualifications to potentially turn an election.
“I have never heard of that before,” she said.
“This decision didn’t come lightly,” Kolinske said. “But it was the right thing to do.”
The town had been aware of possible voter disqualifications even prior to the election, in which an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots were tallied.
The hearing before Judge Mary Hoak is scheduled for May 7.
Kolinske said she believes there is sufficient evidence certain voters were not eligible.
If the judge rules in the direction leading to a mayoral vacancy in Grand Lake, a new election could take place.
Both Burke and Harrington said they would each run again.
“The town clerk has an oath of office that it was a fair and equitable election,” said Burke. “Obviously she doesn’t feel that it was, so I think she’s living up to the oath she was sworn to.”
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