Collecting names just the 1st step | AspenTimes.com

Collecting names just the 1st step

Chad Abraham

Sometime Friday, a former employee of Colleen Truden will load the trunk of his car with boxes, drive to Denver and hand over to state election officials the thousands of names of people who want the district attorney removed from office.After two months of collecting signatures, Martin Beeson, a former deputy district attorney under Truden and one of two candidates in a possible recall election, will deliver the petitions to staffers at the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.Officials and a group of temporary workers hired especially for the recall – currently the only such attempt in Colorado – will then go through each petition line by line. They will have 10 business days to check the petitions and determine if there are 5,455 valid voter signatures.If there are, Truden will have 15 days to protest any names she thinks should not have been counted. She would have to go to the secretary of state’s office to go through that process, said Dana Williams, spokeswoman for the office.If enough names remain to trigger a vote, the state office will schedule a special election to take place within 45 to 75 days after the protest period.The names will be entered into a database and cross-referenced with the current list of registered voters in the 9th Judicial District, which consists of Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties. Each name will be double-checked to ensure that the person is registered to vote, Williams said.It is a tedious process that will likely require all 10 days, she said.After the count, both the recall organizers and Truden will receive a call telling them whether the effort has succeeded. The office will then release the results to the public.A name can be eliminated if it’s not from a registered voter or if the penmanship is illegible, which happens “more often than we would like,” Williams said.”People just think, ‘I’ll sign this really quick.’ They don’t realize that we can’t tell if it’s a ‘c’ or an ‘e,'” she said.Another signature-sinker is if the address on the petition does not match the one on the voter rolls. In those cases, staffers have no way of telling if the person who signed is the same as the one who is registered to vote.If the effort fails, there is nothing, besides perhaps motivation, to prevent Truden critics from mounting another recall effort. And they can even get a refund for the campaign.”The statute does allow, if the incumbent is not recalled, for them to be reimbursed for some of their expenses of the entire process,” she said.While delivering the petitions is emblematic of 60 days of gathering names from across the region, it is just another step toward getting Truden removed, said Sherry Caloia, another recall organizer.Truden, a former municipal court judge who has never prosecuted a case, has been at the center of controversy since April, when three deputy district attorneys resigned, citing philosophical differences with her management style.Critics said at least two, Gail Nichols, a former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Jeff Cheney, a decorated Iraq war veteran, were escorted out before their scheduled last day. Truden told commissioners from two counties that not a single deputy had been escorted out.Four other deputy district attorneys, including two whom Truden hired, have resigned since then, along with some members of the district’s legal staff. Upon resigning, four of the seven deputies harshly criticized their former boss, and two of them, Beeson and Cheney, are helping lead the recall attempt.Truden has said that despite the setbacks, her staff is prosecuting more cases than her predecessor and has a better relationship with law enforcement.Critics have also questioned her budgetary practices, including paying $70,000 for an office remodeling and spending $55,000 on a new computer system. Additionally, she and her husband, Fred, both initially denied that he worked for the office, but it was later revealed he had been paid $6,000 for six weeks of work installing the office’s new software.All of this has led to the recall effort, which will soon be on its way to Denver.”It’s not over,” Caloia said. “This stage isn’t over until [the secretary of state’s office] gives the actual count of how many signatures are good.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com