The votes haven’t even been tallied yet, but some local election integrity activists are already considering pushing for a recount of Boulder County’s Nov. 6 ballot count.
Ralph Shnelvar, the Boulder Libertarian Party chair who settled a lawsuit this week against Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall over pre-election procedures, told Boulder Weekly that he is hoping to pursue a recount, in light of the myriad irregularities that have been reported in recent weeks.
Shnelvar, who also serves as vice chair of the Boulder County American Constitution Party, says he’d like to announce before the election that a recount will be conducted, but he is still discussing the option with interested parties. Announcing it in advance would avoid the perception that an unsuccessful candidate motivated by “sour grapes” is requesting it, according to Shnelvar.
A recount would require “the right people and money,” he says. For one, it will require a candidate who is expected to lose in a local race, and Shnelvar mentions Libertarian county commissioner candidate Shane Hampton as a possibility, although he adds that he hasn’t discussed the possibility with the CU student yet.
As for the money, Aspen-based election activist Marilyn Marks of the Citizen Center estimates that a Boulder County recount would cost several thousand dollars.
Al Kolwicz of the Colorado Voter Group, who has filed his own complaint about Boulder County pre-election procedures with the secretary of state’s office, told BW that he agrees with the notion of calling for a recount in advance. But he said recounts have their limits; they are used to verify that the intent of each voter was honored, but they don’t address the possibility that any ballots were added to — or removed from — the proverbial box.
A recount can’t officially be initiated until after the election results are certified. But even certification is far from a sure thing this year, given that the majority of the group charged with certifying the results, the canvass board, has taken a proactive stance on ferreting out possible problems weeks in advance. Those four members, two Republicans and two American Constitution Party members, outnumber the remainder of the group, two Democrats and Hall. They swore themselves in on Sept. 25, but Hall has refused to recognize them as duly constituted until after the election, and the two sides have had testy relations as Hall has rebuffed many of the group’s efforts to collect resources and information in advance.
Whether the four-person majority bloc will vote to certify the results when its members have publicly expressed concerns about pre-election processes is still an open question.
“So far, they are getting no information,” Marks says. “I don’t know how they will be able to certify if the lack of information continues. It would be inappropriate for them to just blindly sign off on anything that is put in front of them. … Perhaps after Election Day, Hillary Hall will be more forthcoming. She has shown no signs of that so far.”
Republican Russ Boehm, who is acting as chair of the canvass board, declined to speculate on whether the group will certify the election results. But members of the board have agreed that unless Hall grants more access to the input, like the ballot scanning process, it will be hard to gauge the quality of the output.
ACP appointee and election “watcher” Mary Eberle acknowledged during an Oct. 26 meeting that it will be hard to certify if “we don’t know what’s going into the mix.”
Hall told BW that she had not heard about Shnelvar’s idea of calling for a recount early.
“Our elections are conducted within full compliance with the secretary of state’s office rules and policies and statutes, and if they have a specific complaint, they are welcome to take action, and that would be the appropriate way to handle concerns at this point,” she says. “A recount will cause us to retabulate the ballots, and I’m not really sure what that would achieve.”
As for the upstart canvass board and its concerns, Hall says the group is trying to expand its duties without the legislative authority to do so.
“They’re not actually the canvass board yet,” she says. “We swear our canvass board in earlier than any other county. We also involve them in a great deal of the processes. They are welcome to come and observe any of the parts, as a watcher for their party. And again, these are issues that they felt strongly about, and they brought them to the legislature, and the legislature hasn’t enacted them as part of the rules for how a canvass is conducted. I imagine we’ll continue to have this conversation, but right now I conduct the election based on what law currently exists. And for the authority that this group would like the canvass board to have, they’re going to need to get the policymakers to agree with them.”
Hall served on the canvass board that declined to certify the results from the much-maligned 2004 Boulder County election, when results were delayed for days.
“This election is nothing compared to what was happening in 2004,” she says. “Not the same at all, in terms of the irregularities we saw.”
When asked whether she anticipates this year’s results to be certified by this canvass board, Hall replies, “There is no reason for them not to. Based on the information that we’ll provide them, there is absolutely no reason for them not to, with what we have so far.”
Part of the reason for not being able to meet every single demand made by activists seems to be a staffing issue.
“We have processes in place to let people see as much of the election as we can, with the resources we have,” Hall says. “We have one of the most extensive audits in the nation, and the reason we do that is to show in a visible way that the tallies are correct and accurate.
“I think when people try to paint my county and my staff into this picture of we’re closed and not open, we’re one of the more open counties in Colorado, and I would ask them to go to another county and compare,” she adds. “It may not be everything they want, but it definitely is open, and we work with the resources we have to provide the information that we can.”