An anti-fracking measure that appeared to have failed on election night in the Denver suburb of Broomfield, Colo., ended up passing by just 17 votes, in a surprise flip Thursday.
After tallying up Broomfield's outstanding votes -- including military and overseas ballots -- approval of the ban was so close that it triggered a mandatory recount which could begin as early as Monday, according to a report by The Broomfield Enterprise. The unofficial tally was 10,350 who voted for the ban and 10,333 who voted against it.
The measure, Question 300, seeks a five-year ban on fracking and to prohibit the disposal or open pit storage of frack waste in Broomfield.
On election night the measure was originally reported to have failed by 13 votes and it looked like Broomfield would be the only county in Colorado to say no to a fracking ban this election. Similar measures to suspend or ban fracking won handily in the cities of Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins.
Nearby Longmont has an outright ban on fracking already in place and is currently tied up in a lawsuit filed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Gov. John Hickenlooper's (D) administration that may later determine the legality of future local anti-fracking initiatives.
But Broomfield really matters, according to B.J. Nikkel, a former Republican state legislator who's not an advisor to the pro-fracking group Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition. “The city is representative, more of a mirror to Colorado than the liberal cities that have opposed fracking. To us, the close vote shows that when people have balanced information, it puts us in a place where we can prevail," Nikkel told The Colorado Independent.
Denver-based pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli says that fracking votes in Colorado carry added weight in elections, in part because the state's northeastern counties that voted whether or not to secede see an economic benefit from energy and gas production.
From Ciruli's blog "The Buzz":
Governor Hickenlooper supports the gas and oil industry and believes from his scientific background that fracking is not dangerous to groundwater or other claims made against it. He has tried to appease his environmental base in the Democratic Party with renewable legislation and stronger state regulations on fracking. To rural voters, Hickenlooper offers opposition to fracking bans. Neither group is very happy with him.
At a fracking forum earlier this month, Hickenlooper said anti-fracking voters may be ill-informed.
“I believe that the primary reason that people have strong reactions against fracking – and some other processes – is due to a lack of correct information,” Hickenlooper said, according to a report by KDVR.