Colorado Supreme Court hears arguments in Secret Ballot case: ruling will decide, do you have a right to a secret ballot?

The Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments last Tuesday morning in a case that could decide whether Coloradans have a constitutional right to a secret ballot. Although the particulars of the case (a March 13th Recall Election in Colorado for the Board of Trustees of the Town of Center, in Saguache County) involve only a small number of people in a single locale, the outcome (and implications for voter rights) could affect the very foundation of elections throughout the entire state of Colorado.

At issue: whether Colorado citizens have the right to a secret ballot, as guaranteed by the Colorado Constitution (Article VII, Section 8) or if election officials or other government employees can know how you voted – for “official purposes.”

Colorado’s Constitution guarantees secrecy in voting:

Text of Section 8:
Elections by Ballot or Voting Machine.

All elections by the people shall be by ballot, and in case paper ballots are required to be used, no ballots shall be marked in any way whereby the ballot can be identified as the ballot of the person casting it. The election officers shall be sworn or affirmed not to inquire or disclose how any elector shall have voted. In all cases of contested election in which paper ballots are required to be used, the ballots cast may be counted and compared with the list of voters, and examined under such safeguards and regulations as may be provided by law. Nothing in this section, however, shall be construed to prevent the use of any machine or mechanical contrivance for the purpose of receiving and registering the votes cast at any election, provided that secrecy in voting is preserved.  [Ed. emphasis added]

Election irregularities spark ‘Secret Ballot’ challenge

Election officials in the Town of Center (Saguache County) were alleged to have violated the secrecy of ballots cast in the March 2013 Center Colorado Recall Elections, exerting undue influence on voters and potentially affecting the outcome of the election.  Additionally, election officials and other government employees (including Town Housing Authority officials) and partisan supporters of the recall were alleged to have engaged in voter intimidation, including delivery and collection of “pre-filled” mail-in ballots and/or pressure to fill in mail ballots in the presence of officials or partisan activists.

During an official recount, representatives of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office noted numerous discrepancies (greater than the margin of victory) in signatures appearing on voted mail-in ballots differing from voter signatures on file in the state’s SCORE voter database.

After the recount certified the election results despite numerous documented discrepancies, Town of Center Trustee Maurice Jones (supported by election-integrity advocacy group Citizen Center) filed a challenge to contest the election results.  District Court Judge Martin Gonzales (12th Judicial District) agreed with plaintiffs that although some specific instances of voter intimidation were unproven, sufficient irregularities were documented to have affected the election outcome and set aside the vote, ordering new elections.

Secret ballot a fundamental right?  

Voter intimidation has a long and sordid (bipartisan) history in Colorado and nationally, reaching epidemic proportions in the “machine politics” era of the 1930’s and 1940’s (along with a brief period in the early 1920’s when the KKK dominated Colorado politics – including Mayor Ben Stapleton (D) and Governor Clarence Morley (R) and numerous judges, including a state supreme court justice).  More recently, both Presidents Nixon and Obama have notoriously used the IRS to target political opponents.

Historically and internationally, totalitarian regimes have plastered a veneer of respectability over their control of the populace by holding elections where “big brother” could know how the state’s subjects voted – and all but the boldest “toed the line” by voting the “correct” way.

Colorado voters passed a Constitutional amendment in 1946 (Article VII, Section 8) in response to voter intimidation and machine politics – stressing the importance of the secret ballot to allow citizens to vote their conscience free of outside influence or fear of reprisal (including by government officials).

Unfortunately, the sanctity of the secret ballot has been steadily eroded over time (most recently with the widespread advent of mail ballots), undermining the integrity of (and confidence in) elections in our state and nationally.

Remarkably, a number of Colorado’s county clerks (along with the Colorado Lawyers Committee and Colorado Common Cause, submitting amicus curiae) seem to claim that despite the clear constitutional language insisting that secrecy in voting is preserved, that secrecy in voting is not a fundamental right, and that public officials have the authority to determine how individuals cast their votes.

Do You Have a Constitutional Right to a Secret Ballot in Colorado?

The Colorado Supreme Court’s impending ruling in this case (Jones v. Samora, 13SA148) could very well determine if your rights under the Colorado Constitution (Article VII, Section 8) are upheld – or, once again, “interpreted” out of existence.

The implications of the court’s ruling in this case could affect the outcome of all future elections in Colorado.  The sanctity of the secret ballot is critical to voter confidence in the fairness of our elections – indeed, it’s critical to whether citizens have the confidence to participate in voting, period.

Do you have a right to a secret ballot?

We’ll have an answer in a few weeks…

Read more about the Colorado Secret Ballot case:

Clear The Bench Colorado will, with your support, continue to promote transparency and accountability in the Colorado judiciary, informing the public to increase awareness of the substantial public policy implications of unrestrained activism and political agendas in the courts.  We will continue to work to educate voters and provide information of relevance related to the judicial branch, and to provide useful and substantive evaluations of judicial performance. However, we can’t do it alone –  we need your continued support; via your comments (Sound Off!) and, yes, your contributions.

Freedom isn’t free –nor is it always easy to be a Citizen, not a subject. Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.

15 Responses to Colorado Supreme Court hears arguments in Secret Ballot case: ruling will decide, do you have a right to a secret ballot?

  • Natasha Diederich says:

    This page certainly has all of the info I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  • David Wright says:

    Hello there! I simply would like to offer you a big thumbs up for the excellent info you have got here on this post. I am returning to your website for more soon.

  • Demetra Blundell says:

    Right here is the right blog for everyone who wants to understand this topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a new spin on a subject that’s been written about for many years.
    Wonderful stuff, just excellent!

  • Irma DeGrow says:

    This site truly has all the information I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  • Pete Townsend says:

    Can I simply just say what a comfort to uncover someone that genuinely understands what they are talking about on the net. You definitely realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people should look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you are not more popular given that you definitely have the gift.

  • mari judi says:

    A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I believe that you ought to write more on this subject matter, it may not be a taboo subject but generally people don’t speak about such subjects. To the next! Cheers!!

  • Paul Fulenwider says:

    I love reading through a post that will make people think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!

  • judi bola says:

    Great information. Lucky me I recently found your site by chance (stumbleupon). I’ve saved it for later!

  • s1288 sabung ayam says:

    An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who was doing a little research on this. And he in fact bought me lunch due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this matter here on your blog.

  • judi bola says:

    Right here is the perfect website for everyone who wishes to understand this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic which has been discussed for decades. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

  • download s128 says:

    There’s certainly a lot to find out about this issue. I like all of the points you’ve made.

  • mandiri99 says:

    Howdy! This post could not be written any better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I’ll send this post to him. Pretty sure he’s going to have a great read. Thank you for sharing!

  • Bvlgari says:

    Just wish to say your article is as surprising. The clearness for your writing is simply cool and that
    I could suppose you’re a professional on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to take hold of your feeed to stay updated with impending posts.

    Thanks 1,000,000 and please continue thee enjoyable work.

  • sabung ayam says:

    I have to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this site. I really hope to see the same high-grade blog posts by you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own website now 😉

  • Demetria Nostring says:

    Having read this I thought it was very informative.
    I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this short article together.
    I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *