Former Grand Lake trustee steamed about his right to vote being challenged
September 17, 2008
Former town trustee for one term Pat Engelhardt was fuming Tuesday after being challenged at Grand Lakes’ mayoral election polls.
Engelhardt went to the voting booth for early voting Monday, but before being given a ballot, he was handed an official “Voter Challenge” form by Election Official Ronda Kolinske.
“Under duress and protest I was forced to sign a voter challenge, as well as my wife,” Engelhardt said Tuesday.
Engelhardt had refused to sign the document Monday and therefore was not able to vote. He said after a call to his attorney, he and his wife Vicki returned to the voter booth Tuesday morning, signed the document and voted.
Engelhardt, a contractor who owns multiple residences, said he has owned his Grand Lake home since 1996 and has lived in Grand Lake since 2001. He served as a town trustee for four years.
He said he feels their voting privileges have been violated.
There was a blip in his Grand Lake voter registration, but it has since been corrected, he said.
When the Engelhardts decided to put their home up for auction, Pat said they had planned to move so he got a jump on errands and changed registration.
“We thought we were moving,” he said. His wife, however, never changed her Grand Lake registration.
The house did not sell, and in April, Pat said he realized he had not yet changed his registration back and therefore did not vote in the April 1 Grand Lake election. He changed his registration back to Grand Lake in time for the September “redo” election, he said.
The County Clerk and Recorder’s Office confirmed Tuesday that both Engelhardts are registered Grand Lake voters.
“I’m still a resident,” Engelhardt said. “I’ve never voted anywhere else.”
“I question his residency,” Kolinske said Tuesday without giving further details. “That’s the reason I’m challenging.”
Early and absent voting started last Friday in Grand Lake, and as of Tuesday afternoon, a total of six voters out of 70 absentee and walk-in voters have been challenged by Kolinske.
Challenging a voter means the voter must sign a form attesting to their residency or citizenship before receiving a ballot.
“That’s how the process works,” said County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene.
Those forms then can be forwarded to the district attorney’s office for investigation. A voter lying about their residency by signing their ballot can face a maximum penalty of 18 months in jail or a $5,000 fine, or both.
Kolinske says she now holds a list of 44 names ” roughly 10 percent of the total Grand Lake voter pool ” of voters that she feels “are not, perhaps, qualified voters.”
“Most likely all 44 will not be challenged,” Kolinske said, adding that some are people who moved away, and one is believed to be deceased.
Asked if she would make the list public, Kolinske said she did not plan to release the names due to the possibility of them being under investigation.
People named on the list most likely will be challenged on Election Day, Tuesday, Sept. 23, if they haven’t already received a ballot with a challenge form in the mail, Kolinske said.
“Judges will know on Election Day of the investigation I conducted and the results of that investigation,” she said. “They will know who passed and who didn’t, and they can make challenges.
“I’m not out to intimidate people from voting,” she said. “I just want to make sure people who are voting are qualified. It has nothing to do with who is running this race. I can’t be biased in this election toward one candidate or the other. It’s all about conducting a legal and fair election.”
Meanwhile, Engelhardt and his wife are stunned.
“It’s hard to swallow after I’ve given my time for four years as a trustee,” Engelhardt said, “and now to be challenged as a citizen of the town … it doesn’t make sense.”
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