Colorado Court Of Appeals: Images Of Voted Ballots Public Information; Aspen Attempts To Engage Colorado Supreme Court
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been in the news a lot recently. First, there was Gessler's suit against the Denver Clerk and Recorder ordering a halt to supplying ballots to inactive voters. After the initial flurry of coverage subsided, a federal inquiry into Gessler's actions and brief cameo on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC program sounded the alarm once more.
Now, Gessler may see the spotlight once again after the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that electronic images of ballots should be a matter of public record. The ruling comes in response to a 2009 Aspen mayoral election where discrepancies between electronically tallied votes and ballots counted by humans led to a lawsuit from one of the candidates.
The Denver Post reports the city of Aspen has requested the Colorado Supreme Court review the lower court's decision. A decision on whether or not Colorado's Supreme Court will accept the case may take several months.
The Aspen Times reports Marilyn Marks, the mayoral candidate who filed the suit, rested the case partially on the Colorado Open Records Act, which states, "all public records shall be open for inspection by any person at reasonable times, except as provided ... by law."
The Colorado County Clerks Association disagrees. "To put something into play that potentially could reveal how anyone in my county voted is of concern to me," Scott Doyle, the group's president, told CBS5. "The clerk said no to opening up the ballots just for investigation that way, and so ... Secretary [Gessler] took the clerk to court and the judge awarded the Secretary."
While ballots are anonymous by law, clerks fear it wouldn't be difficult to determine how particular people in less populated districts voted. This in turn could be used for voter intimidation in 2012. "Today's ruling has removed the curtain from our voting booths," the clerks said in a statement to the Denver Post Thursday. "It turns our private decisions into political footballs that can, and will, be sought by advocates and election strategists."
Article 7, Section 8 of the Colorado Constitution states that "no ballots shall be marked in any way whereby the ballot can be identified as the ballot of the person casting it. The election officers shall be sworn or affirmed not to inquire or disclose how any elector shall have voted." Further complicating matters, Section 8 ends with an allowance for the use of ballot-counting machines in the state, but only if "secrecy in voting is preserved."
WATCH Rachel Maddow's earlier segment on Scott Gessler and voting rights [via MSNBC]:
flickr photo via Nadya Peek