Clerk says the rules infringe on Denver’s home rule authority
Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson is challenging election rules recently enacted by the Colorado Secretary of State. The complaint, filed by the City Attorney’s Office in Denver District Court, seeks to overturn election rules that impose new restrictions on mail ballots in nonpartisan and coordinated elections. However, the challenged rules do not affect the mailing of ballots for the November 6, 2012 General Election.
“The election rules adopted in August by the Colorado Secretary of State prohibiting the mailing of ballots to inactive-failed-to-vote voters in nonpartisan and coordinated elections infringes on Denver’s status as a home rule city and county,” said Clerk Johnson. “We believe that the Secretary of State is overstepping his authority by trying to control who gets ballots in local municipal elections. The Colorado Constitution and Denver City Charter make it clear that municipal elections in the City and County of Denver are regulated at the local level and that the Clerk and Recorder has exclusive authority to conduct municipal elections.”
Colorado Secretary of State election rules adopted on August 15, 2012 included two provisions that restrict county clerks from including inactive-failed-to-vote electors when mailing ballots in a coordinated or nonpartisan mail ballot election. Clerk Johnson’s complaint asserts that the Secretary’s new rules adversely impact home rule authority contained in the state constitution, and that they also, in effect, constitute a rewrite of portions of state law by creating restrictions that are not addressed in the statutes themselves. City Attorney Douglas J. Friednash states “The goal of the suit is to have those provisions declared unlawful and void and permanently enjoined so this type of action is not repeated in the future. State election laws must be interpreted and administered in a manner that provides fair opportunities for voter participation.” The timing of this court challenge was dictated by a 35-day legal deadline for challenging Secretary of State rulemaking.