Articles Posted in Election Law

by
The Colorado Supreme Court held that under section 2(5)(a)(IV) of the Colorado Constitution, a campaign “contribution” required that: (1) something of value (2) be given to a candidate, directly or indirectly, (3) for the purpose of promoting the candidate’s nomination, retention, recall, or election. Here, a school district commissioned and paid for a "white paper" report supportive of the district’s reform agenda using public funds. Petitioner Julie Keim was a candidate for one of four open seats in the 2013 school board election. According to Keim, after the 2009 school board election, the District began implementing a conservative “reform agenda,” which she characterized as “[school] choice-focused” and supportive of charter schools. The 2011 election brought in three additional reform agenda board members; thereafter, the entire board and the District’s superintendent unanimously supported the reform agenda. In 2013, four school board seats were up for election. In February of that year, the District contracted with the American Enterprise Institute (“AEI”) to prepare a white paper about the school system. Shortly thereafter, Keim filed a campaign finance complaint against the District with the Secretary of State alleging the District “violated the [Fair Campaign Practices Act, "FCPA"] . . . by using district resources to influence the outcome of the school board election.” Because the school district did not give something, directly or indirectly, to any candidate when it publicly disseminated an email containing a link to the report, the Supreme Court concluded the school district did not make a prohibited “contribution” under Colorado campaign finance provisions. View "Keim v. Douglas County School District" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners Scott Smith and D. Michael Kopp, both registered electors, appealed the actions of the Ballot Title Setting Board (“Title Board”) regarding the setting of the title and ballot title and submission clause for Proposed Initiative 2017–2018 #4 (“Initiative #4”). Issues for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review were: (1) Initiative #4 contained a single subject; and (2) whether the Supreme Court had authority to review an abstract prepared and submitted to the Title Board as required by section 1-40-105.5, C.R.S. (2016). The Court concluded: (1) the initiative indeed contained a single subject (the limitation of housing growth in Colorado); and (2) section 1-40-107 authorized the Court to review such an abstract. View "In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2017" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Donna Johnson challenged the Ballot Title Board's decision to set the title, ballot title and submission clause for Initiatives 2015-2016 #132 and 133, contending that the titles did not satisfy the clear title requirement and they did not contain a single subject. If passed, the Initiatives, substantially similar in language and form, represented two of several redistricting concepts proposed by the Proponents during the 2016 election cycle. Both Initiatives would have amended article V, section 44 through 48 of the Colorado Constitution by restructuring or replacing the Colorado Reapportionment Commission. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that both of the proposed Initiatives encompassed multiple subjects in violation of Colorado law. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Title Board and remanded for revision. View "In re Title, Ballot Title & Submission Clause for 2015-2016 #132 & #133" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner John Robinson challenged the Ballot Title Board's decision to set the title, ballot title and submission clause for Initiative 2015-2016 #156, contending that the title did not satisfy the clear title requirement and it did not contain a single subject. If passed, Initiative #156 would have added a new section to the Colorado Revised Statutes prohibiting state and local licensing authorities from issuing "a license to food store that offers for sale, in sealed containers for off-premises consumption," certain "intoxicants, namely marijuana, marijuana product, liquor, wine and malt liquor. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded the title indeed violated the clear title requirement because it was confusing and failed to help voters decipher the purpose of the initiative, or to help voters decide whether to support or oppose it. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Title Board's setting of title for Initiative #156, and returned it to the Board for revision. View "In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title & Submission Clause for 2015-2016 Initiative #156" on Justia Law

by
On October 27, 2015,one week before the November 3 regular biennial school board election for Mesa County Valley School District 51, three registered electors of the school district, Kent Carson, James “Gil” Tisue, and Dale Pass, filed a verified petition with the district court, challenging as wrongful the certification of one of the candidates. Carson and two other electors of Mesa County Valley School District 51 sought certiorari review of the district court’s order denying their requested relief concerning a school board election. After review, the Supreme Court found that C.R.S. section 1-1-113(1) did not permit a challenge to an election official’s certification of a candidate to the ballot, solely on the basis of the certified candidate’s qualification, once the period permitted by section 1-4-501(3), C.R.S. (2015), for challenging the qualification of the candidate directly has expired. Therefore the district court's ruling was affirmed. View "Carson v. Reiner" on Justia Law

by
Initiative #63 would establish a right to a healthy environment in Colorado by amending the state Constitution. Petitioners argued the text of the Initiative filed a motion to the Title Board, arguing the Initiative as written was misleading and contained multiple subjects. The Supreme Court reviewed the Title Board's action setting the title, ballot title and submission clause for the Initiative, and concluded that the Initiative contained a single subject, and that the title clearly expressed the subject and was not misleading. View "In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2015" on Justia Law

by
Proponents Mike Spalding and David Ottke proposed Initiative #73, which would amend article XXI of the Colorado Constitution to change the procedures leading to and the conduct of recall elections for state and local elective officials. A review and comment hearing was held before representatives of the Offices of Legislative Counsel and Legislative Legal Services. Thereafter, the proponents submitted a final version of their proposed initiative to the Secretary of State for purposes of submission to the Title Board. The Title Board conducted a hearing, concluded that the proposed initiative contained a single subject, and set a title. Petitioner Phillip Hayes filed a motion for rehearing, contending that the title comprised multiple subjects and was misleading, confusing, and inaccurate. Hayes petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court for review The Supreme Court concluded that Initiative #73 contained one subject, namely, the manner in which recall elections are triggered and conducted; however, the title set by the Title Board did not satisfy the clear title requirement because it did not alert voters to central elements of the initiative; it was misleading as to other elements; and, as all parties agreed, it unnecessarily recited existing law. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Title Board and returned this measure to the Board to fix a new title. View "In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2015-2016 #73" on Justia Law

by
Shortly before the 2011 election, the Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder received a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request from Marilyn Marks for access to voted paper ballots from the 2010 general election. Because the Clerk believed that Colorado law prohibited disclosing voted ballots, and because Marks requested the ballots within twenty days of an upcoming election, the Clerk filed an action in district court under section 24-72-204(6)(a) seeking an order prohibiting or restricting disclosure of the ballots. Before the district court ruled on the merits of the Clerk's request, however, the General Assembly enacted section 24-72-205.5, C.R.S. (2014), providing that voted ballots are subject to CORA and describing the process by which records custodians must make them available. The Clerk then produced a single voted ballot for Marks to inspect, and the parties agreed that the only remaining issue in the case was whether Marks was entitled to costs and attorney fees. The Supreme Court held that where an official custodian sought an order prohibiting or restricting disclosure under section 24-72-204(6)(a), a prevailing records request or is entitled to costs and attorney fees in accordance with section 24-72-204(5). "Under section 24-72-204(5), a prevailing records requestor is entitled to costs and attorney fees unless the district court finds that the denial of the right of inspection was proper. Here, the district court's order reflects that the Clerk's denial of Marks' request was proper. Consequently, Marks is not entitled to attorney fees in this case." The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding to the contrary. View "Reno v. Marks" on Justia Law

by
Shortly before the 2011 election, the Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder received a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request from Marilyn Marks for access to voted paper ballots from the 2010 general election. Because the Clerk believed that Colorado law prohibited disclosing voted ballots, and because Marks requested the ballots within twenty days of an upcoming election, the Clerk sought a declaration that it was prohibited from disclosing the ballots. Before the district court ruled on the merits of the Clerk's request, the General Assembly enacted 24-72-205.5, C.R.S. (2014) that made voted ballots subject to CORA. The Clerk thereafter produced a single voted ballot for Marks to inspect. The only remaining issue in the case was whether Marks was entitled to costs and attorney fees. After its review, the Supreme Court held that when an official custodian sought an order prohibiting or restricting disclosure, a prevailing requestor was entitled to costs and attorney fees unless the district court found that the denial of the right of inspection was proper. The district court in this case found the denial was proper, therefore Marks was not entitled to attorney fees. View "Reno v. Marks" on Justia Law

by
The district court declared a vacancy in the Adams County School District 12 Director District 4 school board director position because defendant-appellee Amy Speers was elected but unqualified to serve. An issue arose when the two candidates signed affidavits affirming that they met all the requisite qualifications to hold the office, but unbeknownst to Speers, the School District had redrawn the director districts in 2012, and had placed Speers' home outside of Director District 4. The School District's designated election officer was also unaware that Speers no longer met the residency requirement, and deemed both petitions sufficient. Neither the sufficiency of Speers' petition nor her certification to the ballot was challenged within the five-day window (under C.R.S. 1-4-909(1) (2014)). The election officer's certification of both candidates to the ballot was therefore valid. In a final attempt to effectively withdraw Speers from the election, the Secretary of State issued an emergency rule at the end of the final day of the election that instructed the clerks not to count the ballots cast for Speers. A district court invalidated this rule as incompatible with Colorado's election code, and we upheld that court's decision in "Hanlen v. Gessler," (333 P.3d 41 2014)) because "questions regarding a certified candidate's eligibility [must] be determined by a court, not an election official." On remand, the district court considered plaintiff-appellant Enrico Figueroa's claims that Speers was not eligible to hold office, that the votes cast for her were invalid, and this he was legally elected to the Director District 4 position. The district court concluded that because neither Figueroa nor any other party sought any judicial intervention whatsoever prior to the election, Figueroa had "slept on his rights" and thus Speers had won the election. Regarding Speers, the court found that there was no dispute that she was ineligible to hold the office for which she was elected and because she had not sought to take the oath of office and did not intend to cure the residency defect, her election was voided. The court then declared a vacancy in the Director District 4 position. Figueroa appealed directly to the Colorado Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court held that, though Speers was unqualified to serve, no court declared her to be unqualified until after the voting had been completed. In this situation, the legally elected party is the party who receives the most legal votes. Thus, Speers was legally elected because she received the most legal votes, meaning Figueroa was not legally elected. The district court therefore correctly voided her election and declared a vacancy under the provisions of Colorado' selection code, and its judgment was affirmed. View "Figueroa v. Speers" on Justia Law