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Aspenite Marks, voter group sues over election practices

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Citizen Center, a nonpartisan group of Colorado voters founded by Aspen resident Marilyn Marks, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver Monday challenging election practices in six Colorado counties.

The suit, filed against Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler and the county clerks in Boulder, Jefferson, Larimer, Mesa, Eagle and Chaffee counties, seeks court action requiring Gessler and the clerks to halt practices that violate voters’ constitutional rights to anonymous, untraceable ballots.

According to the nonprofit Citizen Center, many Colorado counties employ procedures that make it possible to identify the individual who cast a specific ballot. The lawsuit comes months after the Secretary of State failed to enforce compliance in response to voter complaints filed with his office, according to Marks.

Concerns about ballot anonymity grew out of Marks’ initial quest for ballot transparency. She and other advocates began asking to view a sampling of ballots in various counties and, in some cases, were denied by clerks who voiced concern that viewing the ballots, in conjunction with other election data that is available to the public, could result in some ballots being linked to the voters who cast them.

Marks is embroiled in a lawsuit against the city of Aspen, where she ran for mayor in 2009 and lost. She subsequently asked to review ballots or images of the ballots that were created by a new voting system the city had employed that year. The request was denied. Marks said she was not interested in overturning the results of the election, but wanted to verify the results produced by the new voting method, one the city has since scrapped.

Marks prevailed at the appellate court level in her suit against the city of Aspen; the city is seeking review of the case by the Colorado Supreme Court.

She is also involved in litigation in Mesa, Chaffee and Jefferson counties regarding requests to view ballots in those jurisdictions.

The counties in the Citizen Center lawsuit were chosen because their practices and voting systems are representative of those of many other Colorado counties and because they are home to a large number of Colorado voters, according to the group’s website, thecitizencenter.org. Individual members of Citizen Center live and vote in the defendant counties and are concerned about the prospect of voter intimidation and the possibility that voters will hesitate to cast a ballot or vote their conscience when they discover that their ballots can be traced back to them by election officials or partisan appointees, according to materials posted on the website.

In Pitkin County, Marks’ home county, election officials take steps to ensure ballots aren’t traceable to individual voters, including storing them in random, untraceable order, according to the website.

Marks and her attorney, Robert A. McGuire, will hold a press conference Monday afternoon in Denver to discuss the litigation.

This article will be updated.


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