Counties must pay for ballot boxes

Colorado counties must have drop-off boxes for mail-in ballots at each polling station, and they have to pay the costs of providing them, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The issue came up before the 2010 general election after the Colorado Legislature enacted a new law requiring the additional boxes.

At the time, Arapahoe County Clerk Nancy Doty objected to the new law, saying it would cost her county about $80,000 to comply with it. She said it violated the state’s unfunded-mandate law, and she refused to obey.

Then Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, a former Grand Junction legislator, took the case to court, saying the Colorado Constitution allows the Legislature to set election policy, and counties are required to fund all costs associated with conducting elections.

An Arapahoe County district judge agreed, and a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals upheld that decision.

“We conclude that the trial court correctly determined that counties must provide drop-off boxes for mail-in ballots at every polling place on Election Day,” the court wrote in its unanimous decision. “We reach this conclusion on grounds that the code’s funding provision ... prevails over the unfunded mandate statute.”

Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner said that while she, too, didn’t like having to spend an additional $5,000 last year to provide the boxes, she said she agrees with the law mandating them.

“While we didn’t like putting out the money, we also thought it made sense to provide a ballot box at any polling location,” she said.


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