Grand Lake trustees question efforts to verify voter list
July 16, 2008
Grand Lake is treading into uncharted territory with its attempts to redeem a voter registration list prior to its September mayoral election.
And at least two trustees are questioning the process.
Town Clerk Ronda Kolinske has been poring over voter names suspected of having illegally voted in the April 1 election and told trustees Monday that she’s having difficulty making progress. The clerk has been trying to access information from out-of-county and out-of-state databases to establish whether certain citizens hold voter credentials in two places.
“It’s been extremely slow,” she told trustees. “I may have eliminated some, but have added others. So we’re where we started.” Her charge is to shorten a list of 50-plus names of people suspected of wrongly voting in the recent election.
“I recently found five individuals registered in two different counties in this state,” she said.
Colorado law holds that people may only register to vote in town elections at their place of primary residency, but with people throughout the nation and world owning more than one home, the issue of “residency” is not always clear. When people vote, their signature on election day establishes their claim of primary residency.
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But not all voters are familiar with voter law, and some may think voting rights coincide with property rights.
It’s this confusion that trumped Grand Lake’s election in April. A judge found that two voters cast ballots when they shouldn’t have, and two votes were enough to vacate the mayoral seat.
Grand Lake presently is looking at others who may have voted wrongly, either unknowingly or deliberately, and plans to present its pared-down list to the district attorney’s office for possible charges of perjury.
In doing so, the task would serve to “clean up” the list for the upcoming election, town officials have said.
But Grand Lake Trustee Benton Johnson disagrees with the town clerk delving into the qualifications of voters, something that statutorily is in the arena of county clerks and district attorneys.
“I think we’re opening ourselves up for a hell of a lawsuit if we continue,” cautioned Johnson. “I think as the town board, we should take a real good look at what we’re telling her to do. I think we’re telling her to do something illegal.”
Municipal election law pertaining to Grand Lake’s matter involving mail-in ballots and second homeowners has been deemed muddy at best. During and prior to elections, the law states that citizens may challenge fellow voters whose eligibility may be questionable.
But the limits of the town-clerk role in Grand Lake’s unique matter is still open to interpretation.
Even after a recent meeting with officials and an attorney from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, who specialize in county and state election voting laws, town officials remain foggy as to the law behind their municipal voting list.
Trustees agreed to meet with the town attorney, who reportedly has been consulting experts in municipal election law, during the next board meeting for further clarification.
Grand Lake could possibly be the only town in Colorado attempting to take on voting improprieties of citizens with second-home status.
“And we’re paying the expense of it,” protested Trustee Elmer Lanzi.
“We’re paying for the attorney’s time. We’re paying for the clerk’s time ” expenses we’re bearing for the entire state,” he said.
“Yes, so be it,” countered Trustee Tom Weydert. “I think it’s that important.”
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.