Gessler’s proposal to change rules gets mixed review

Secretary of State Scott Gessler is proposing election rule changes that are winning support from some and condemnation from others.

Among the proposed new rules, most of which are minor technical changes, is a provision barring clerks from counting ballots with write-in candidates if voters fail to mark the box next to that choice.

Former Rep. Kathleen Curry, the Democrat-turned-unaffiliated who ran as a write-in candidate in House District 61 last year, said Gessler is going against court precedent.

Last year, Curry ran a write-in campaign against Republican Luke Korkowski and Democrat Roger Wilson. She went to court to ensure that county clerks would count all write-in votes regardless of whether voters remembered to check the box next to that option.

She won that court case, but lost the race to Wilson by fewer than 300 votes.

“The law does not require that a box be filled in for a write-in vote to count,” Curry said. “We tested it in court and won, and the secretary of state is ignoring that entire exercise, which will force any future candidate to go to court again.”

Curry said her campaign spent more than $15,000 fighting that case, which the Secretary of State’s Office did not appeal.

The Secretary of State’s Office, which has up to six months to approve the new rules, said the proposed change eliminates a conflict between an initial ballot count and a recount.

Three county clerks, including Ann Eddins of Delta County, told Gessler’s office they supported the change.

Eddins said ballots that don’t have a mark next to a write-in candidate would be read by the scanners as undervotes, races the voter chose not to vote in. Without checking the box, the scanners would have no way of knowing if a ballot includes a write-in vote.

“If you were to program the optical scans to sort out undervoted ballots, write-ins that do not have the targeted areas marked would be included in this, the optical scan would reject the ballot for every undervote,” she said in a written statement to Gessler’s office. “This would be very time consuming. Voters often vote for a few races and have several undervotes on their ballots.”

Jenny Flanagan, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, said a voter’s intent should rule, not the limitations of ballot-counting machines or how inconvenient it might be for clerks.

“Respecting the intent of the voter is consistent with Colorado law and should not be limited by secretary of state rules,” she said.


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