Grand Lake refers names of seven voters to DA’s office for investigation
July 29, 2008
Seven individuals out of a list of about 50 Grand Lake voter names are suspected of having cast ballots illegally in Grand Lake’s April 1 election.
By affidavit, the shorter list is being forwarded to the district attorney’s office with reasons for each being singled out, said Grand Lake Attorney Scott Krob and Election Official/Town Clerk Ronda Kolinske.
The election official’s progress with the registration list was shared during an update at Monday’s town board workshop.
Those individuals will be investigated, and it will be up to the DA whether those individuals will be charged, they said.
Colorado voting laws include a long list of categories that define a person’s primary residence. The voters being forwarded to the DA are under suspicion for having voted in Grand Lake while not satisfying criteria for primary residency in town.
With many citizens the owners of more than one home, voting law says citizens are obligated to limit their municipal vote to one place of residency.
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When people vote, they sign their names validating they are casting their ballot at the place they identify as home-sweet-home.
But if that place is somehow proven to not be one’s primary home, that voter may have broken the law.
On a parallel track, an additional five Grand Lake voter names are being forwarded to the Grand County Clerk and Recorder’s office for review, Kolinske said. Those people are found on registration lists in more than one county of Colorado. The county clerk then has the responsibility to remedy what could be a clerical error or the need of reminding a voter that his or her registration needs to be updated. It is also up to the county clerk to forward names to the sheriff’s office for investigation if there is reason to believe a voter voted in two places.
“I laud the town for following what is the legal and correct procedure, and we should follow it with all good faith and according to every legal resource,” said citizen Gay Shaffer.
Others wondered the probability of Grand Lake finding itself in court again following the next election.
If voters are called out, it “likely would be from a registered elector, not from the town this time,” said Krob.
Members of the electorate have the right to single out individuals who may be voting illegally if they have a strong basis to do so. Challenging a voter can be done on election day by fellow voters, poll watchers or election judges. A fellow voter may post a challenge at the time the suspected individual is depositing his or her ballot, or up to seven to 10 days following the election, Krob said.
Since none did so in the last election, the election official “raised the question with the court under the controversy statute,” Krob said.
The narrow margin of victory played a significant role in the uniqueness of the case, whereby the disqualification of two votes altered the outcome, rendering Grand Lake without a mayor until a special election in September.
Krob said it is something he has never witnessed before, and said it is unlikely to happen again.
Trustee Jim Peterson refuted supposition around town that the town’s clerk underwent a review of voter names due to the turnout of the last election. The town had concerns and was “looking at names even before the election,” he said.
Board members and the town attorney also clarified the board’s lack of influence in the election official’s decisions surrounding what should and has been done to iron out voter discrepancies.
“It’s Ronda’s responsibility to decide whether improprieties or controversies took place,” Trustee Tom Weydert said.
“For the number of voters we have … I think it’s a real black eye on Grand Lake,” former trustee Pat Engelhardt said. “We must do our level best to keep this from happening again.”
Citizen and environmental advocate Lenny Brooks approached the town with the idea of implementing a permitting process for all private and commercial sprayers who operate within town limits. “We have a special responsibility, we are the headwaters of the Colorado,” he said during his presentation. The town authorized staff to look into drafting a possible policy.
Downtown sound system
With possible funding available from the “Louie and Gladys Heckert Memorial Fund” and a canvass of possible funding from the town and the community, Peter Esmonde (the man often seen behind the microphone while dragging Grand Avenue in the black parade jeep during peak festival days) has successfully gained the town’s approval to locate a “state of the art audio communication system” on town property, with “permanently mounted speakers at locations along Grand Avenue.” The board approved the future set-up with the condition that the system not exceed certain levels of volume.
The town board approved a letter of support for the Kremmling Memorial Hospital District Energy and Mineral Impact Grant and pledged $1,000 toward the success of the grant from the 2009 budget.
New street standards
The town set a public hearing for Aug. 25 for adoption of new street development policies, standards and specifications. Standards had not been updated since 1974.
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