The Colorado secretary of state’s office is mum on where it will come down on the Boulder County canvass board’s refusal to certify local election results, but it would be a shock if the Nov. 6 results were not upheld.
The local canvass board, thanks to a four-person majority held by members of the Republican and American Constitution party that has been meeting without the clerk and recorder’s blessing since September, voted against certifying the county’s election results on Nov. 26, based in part on what they say is a lack of a true reconciliation report on why there were more ballots cast than counted.
While Andrew Cole, spokesperson for Secretary of State Scott Gessler, told Boulder Weekly that he could not speculate on what his office will decide on the matter before the Dec. 6 deadline, it is unusual for such a decision to be upheld at the state level.
He noted that in 2010, the Saguache County canvass board decided not to certify results, but the secretary of state did so. Cole says it would be highly unusual for his office to find a show-stopper this late in the game.
“To be honest, the notion that there is some systemic problem in an election, I can’t imagine it would be news to the secretary of state’s office, two weeks after an election,” he says. “We’re very involved in the months and weeks leading up to an election. … So I guess that’s why it shouldn’t be surprising that when it has happened, when the canvass board hasn’t certified, that the secretary of state’s office has gone ahead and certified anyway, because whatever issues they had, I don’t believe would’ve been a surprise.”
Cole adds that the legal bar the secretary of state must meet in certifying election results is relatively low, since statute calls for the office to simply determine whether there was “substantial compliance” with the law.
“If we have the right outcome, we’re not going to not certify an election for procedural sake, when we believe that the will of the people has been carried out, as far as the folks that got elected and issues that were voted on,” he says.
Cole adds that while the four-person majority on the Boulder County board seems to want to expand its authority beyond its statutory role, his office will take its concerns seriously. “I don’t think that this is the end of the story,” he says.
Republican Russ Boehm, who was named chair of the rogue canvass board when it began meeting more than two months ago, bristled at the notion that his group attempted to broaden its scope.
“That would be kind of an insult to say the board wanted to expand its reach,” he told BW. “They did not. Everything was done by statute.”
The most significant concern deals with one of the board’s core duties: making sure the number of ballots counted equals the number of votes cast. Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall has explained that discrepancies exist because at some polling places that serve more than one precinct, voters are sometimes given ballots for the wrong precinct, causing the appearance of more ballots than votes counted.
But Boehm says he and other canvass board members want to see a written breakdown of those figures.
“This is like your bank statement,” he says. “You get a number from the bank, and then you add the corrections, and the new number should be the same as the bank statement. This doesn’t have any corrections.”
Boehm adds that while there are no close races hanging in the balance, his group’s concerns should be addressed.
“I do understand that the outcome of the election doesn’t change,” he says. “But to me, if you’re asking somebody to provide citizen oversight, then you ought to be paying attention to what it is they do. This is a pretty good group of technically savvy people. This is not the butcher, the baker and candlestick maker who want to spend a day and leave. I would hope they’d think we did a good job.”