COLORADO UNION OF TAXPAYERS FILES SUIT TO VOID LOCAL ELECTION, VINDICATING VOTERS’ RIGHTS TO A SECRET BALLOT
Why do you go into a voting booth to cast your ballot? Is the secrecy of this ballot important to you?
With this in mind, on June 2, 2014, Colorado Union of Taxpayers (CUT) filed suit in the Jefferson County State District Court against officials of the West Metro Fire District charging a violation of voters’ constitutional rights to a secret ballot in the recently completed May 6, 2014 biennial election.
“The rights of all district voters to a secret ballot were so egregiously violated that we had to intervene to halt this dangerous trend on the part of these Colorado election officials,” said CUT’s President Gregory Golyansky.
The lawsuit alleges that ballots were removed from their secrecy sleeves alongside return envelopes, allowing for voted ballots to be associated with the names of specific voters. The complaint further alleges that identifying stubs were purposely left on the ballots through numerous processes where the voted ballot content could be viewed by workers and connected back to the voters. In some cases, election workers even wrote voters’ names on “Post-it” notes and adhered them to their ballots as the ballots were being processed, according to the complaint.
Election observers and some media called on officials to stop this insidious practice but were ignored by the officials establishing the rules and criteria for the election.
"Could names be placed on lists and for what purposes?" asked Golyansky.
The lawsuit alleges that voting secrecy was violated for most if not all ballots cast. The news of the non-secret ballot processing became public Friday May 2 and rapidly spread through the May 6 election day.
Attorney Marc Zarlengo, representing CUT and four plaintiffs, noted that there is evidence that some voters chose not to vote and others expressed reluctance and fear of intimidation in voting their conscience because of the public disclosure that ballots were being processed without required privacy controls in place. We have to assume that the chilling effect on voters is substantial given the circumstances and the widespread knowledge of the risk of votes being connected to the individual voter. Therefore, the election must be voided. Quite simply, the election results have been compromised and may not reflect the true will of the people.
The voters long-held constitutional right to voting privacy cannot be violated or compromised by local election officials in West Metro Fire District, or any other district for that matter. I understand the District may have a difficult time operating under the new election laws imposed on them by House Bill 1164 recently passed by the General Assembly on a party-line vote, but that is no excuse for violating the constitutional rights of its citizens.
I’m proud to represent CUT and the other plaintiffs who are taking a stand to demand constitutional voting rights and election integrity for all the citizens in Colorado,” Zarlengo added.
Golyansky stated that the proposed tax increase was defeated in the election, and this result would stand whether or not the election is voided. CUT wants to send the message that, “Tax and debt increases should be determined by the citizens in free and fair elections. CUT wants to make it clear that any future elections must be conducted fairly and must honor the constitutional rights to a secret ballot.”
The lawsuit, an election contest, was filed with four district voters as CUT’s co-plaintiffs: they are Clyde Wadsworth, (candidate for District 3 board seat), Devin Howard, (candidate for District 2 board seat), Linda Mackety and Mike Donahue, authorized election watchers, district voters and taxpayers.
The public can support this intensive legal effort to vindicate all voters’ rights through tax-deductible donations to www.CUTFoundation.org.
For additional information contact Gregory Golyansky firstname.lastname@example.org .
or Marc Zarlengo, Marc@ZarlengoBusinessLaw.com.