State of Elections

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Tag: Caitlin Cater

Investigations into Colorado Secretary of State’s Use of State Funds Highlights Broader Concern about Partisan Election Administration Officials

by Caitlin Cater

In an era of attenuated public confidence in the electoral process, it’s not reassuring when a state’s chief election official becomes the subject of criminal and ethics investigations on the eve of a major election. Alas, that is what happened in Colorado this year, when, on November 5, both the Denver District Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission announced that they are independently looking into whether Secretary of State Scott Gessler “violated the law by using state funds to attend a partisan event.”

This issue first came to light in October, when Colorado Ethics Watch, a left-leaning nonprofit watchdog organization, filed a request for investigation with the Denver District Attorney and the Denver Police Department, alleging that Gessler misused public funds when he submitted reimbursement forms for expenses incurred while attending the Republican National Convention and a Republican-sponsored election law training in August. Ethics Watch contends that “the Secretary’s Florida trip was manifestly personal and political, in which he participated only in partisan events, not in pursuit of state business.” Ethics Watch characterizes the group that sponsored the election law training, the Republican National Lawyers Association, as “a private organization of lawyers dedicated, among other things, to ‘advancing Republican ideals.’” Gessler was not a delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention. Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: Can Colorado Keep a (Ballot) Secret? After Citizen Center v. Gessler, It’s Not Required To Do So

by Caitlin Cater

Barcodes are a ubiquitous feature of modern life. They appear on everything from retail products and advertisements to patient forms at the doctor’s office. But perhaps one place a person might not expect to find a barcode is on an election ballot—especially when that barcode can be used to link an individual ballot with the voter who cast it. The notion seems at odds with our venerated tradition of the “secret” ballot. Indeed, that is what the plaintiffs argued in Citizen Center v. Gessler, a recent case before the United States District Court in Colorado.

On February 13, Citizen Center, a nonpartisan group of Colorado voters, filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of election policies and procedures in six Colorado counties. Specifically, Citizen Center alleged that the defendant counties’ election ballots each contain a unique identifying mark that allows a voted ballot to be traced to its specific voter. Citizen Center further alleged that use of these ballots unconstitutionally infringes upon citizens’ fundamental right to vote, as well as their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.   Continue reading

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