Grand Lake " Verifying voter list fraught with peril
July 22, 2008
Grand Lake is swimming into uncharted waters this election season and those waters are murky.
In preparation for a Sept. 23 “re-do” election, Grand Lake town clerk Ronda Kolinske is sifting through a list of registered voters to see who is and who is not legally eligible to vote.
In April, a judge found that two voters cast ballots in Grand Lake illegally. The election was won by two votes (Glenn Harrington, 88; Judy Burke, 86).
To legally vote, one must have lived Grand Lake 30 days prior to the election, be 18 years of age and be a citizen of the United States. (To read a complete list of municipal election rules, read this editorial online at http://www.skyhidailynews.com)
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.
Kolinske is focusing on more than 50 names of voters who may have ” intentionally or not ” voted illegally in the last election.
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She is cross-referencing motor vehicle records with the Colorado Secretary of State database and voter registrations in other states.
In an age where people are more mobile than ever, owning property in several states, Kolinske is taking on an incredibly complicated ” if not impossible ” task.
During a June meeting of county and Grand Lake officials, Colorado Secretary of State’s Office representatives and the assistant district attorney, Kolinske admitted she is “struggling” to find out if anyone may have been registered in another place when they voted in Grand Lake.
That admission alone raises a red flag.
Again, during last Monday’s Grand Lake trustee meeting, Kolinske said she was having difficulty making progress.
She called the process, “extremely slow.”
“I may have eliminated some, but have added others,” she said. “So we’re where we started.”
She is working to shorten a list of 50-plus names of people suspected of wrongly voting in the recent election. The plan is to present this list to the district attorney’s office for possible charges of perjury.
While it could be seen as courageous for the town of Grand Lake and Kolinske in particular to be the torchbearers of democracy, we believe the town is potentially treading on the civil rights of its own voters.
Grand Lake could be the only town in Colorado attempting to take on voting improprieties of citizens with second-home status. With this precedent-setting move on the part of Grand Lake, we are left to wonder ” perhaps there is a reason no other election office has taken this road.
Normally, the electorate is charged with monitoring itself, according to voting laws. A list of voter names is made public record prior to an election ” published in the newspaper on occasion or posted on the town’s Web site for other voters to examine and question.
Instead, Grand Lake is spending resources ” time and money ” in pursuit of its own voters.
It should be the job of legislators to clarify the language of the law surrounding the voting rights of second home owners ” not the job of Grand Lake.
While it may be impossible to convince them to step down in this pursuit, we can loudly echo the comments made during that June meeting of state, county and local officials. State of Colorado Legal Specialist Troy Bratton and Elections Division employee J. Wayne Munster cautioned the town to tread lightly in the realm of a person’s right to vote.
Laws, after all, are set up to protect the voter, “and if there’s ever a fine line, you leave the person on the list,” Bratton said.
“When it comes down to it, it’s a civil right,” Munster said, “and when civil rights are involved, you have to be more understanding than you want to be strict.”
We agree with comments made last Tuesday by Grand Lake Trustee Benton Johnson.
“I think we’re opening ourselves up for a hell of a lawsuit if we continue,” Johnson said. “I think as the town board, we should take a real good look at what we’re telling her to do.”